Monday, 21 October 2013

Britain is no country for lonely old men looking for a champion in a Government Health Secretary called Jeremy Hunt

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will warn a million elderly are left forgotten and isolated because friends and relatives fail to visit themJeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health is certainly not a man 'of' the people for he was :

* born in the elder son of Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt, a Commander in the Royal Navy working inside the Ministry of Defence.

* was educated at Charterhouse School, a fee-paying boys' public school where the fees today for 'day' boys stand at £27,210 per year and where he was Head Boy.

* attended Magdalen College, Oxford University where he became involved in conservative politics and where our Prime Minister, who had attended the fee-paying boys' public school, Eton College and our Mayor of London who had also attended Eton, were his contemporaries.

The question is : " Is Jeremy Hunt a man for the people and in particular, old people ?"
 If the speech he made last week is anything to go by, warning that a million lonely old men and women are left forgotten and isolated because friends and relatives fail to visit them, then the answer is : "Yes ! "

Jeremy :

* Cited the example of Asian nations, where there was respect for old men and women and families took responsibility for grandparents and did not leave caring to the state.

* also cited that  according to the 'Campaign to End Loneliness', there are 800,000 people in England alone who are 'chronically' lonely.

* said : "In those countries, when living alone is no longer possible, residential care is a last rather than a first option and the social contract is stronger because, as children see how their own grandparents are looked after, they develop higher expectations of how they too will be treated when they get old. If we are to tackle the challenge of an ageing society, we must learn from this."
*  also said : "It will only start with changes in the way we personally treat our own parents and grandparents. Each and every lonely person has someone who could visit them and offer companionship. A forgotten million who live among us – ignored to our national shame."

* "Some five million people say television is their main form of company – that’s 10% of the population. We know there is a broader problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society."

Jeremy knows a thing or two about Asia because he spent much of his twenties in Japan and his wife is Chinese.

But hold on a minute : 
* isn't it true that in recent years, things have been changing in some of the growing cities in China with fewer believing they have to look after their elders ?
* as the middle class expands, don't many of them find they have little time to care for their parents ?
* Isn't it true that a poll has found that around a quarter of Chinese senior citizens now live alone ?

What about the points made following Jeremy's speech by, Caroline Abrahams, a Director of the charity 'Age UK' who referred to the financial cuts made by very same Government of which Jeremy is a member :

"We are extremely concerned that cuts to local authority budgets are exacerbating the problem of loneliness because they are causing the closure of many support services for older people, like lunch clubs, which can be a lifeline for those on their own. These cuts are also pushing to breaking point many families who are trying to care for their older relatives in the absence of adequate support. Caring is often a 24/7 role that can have a huge physical and emotional impact on the carer."

So, Jeremy, who is a minister in the Government who suggests that Britain should adopt the Asian model of families looking after old people to counter their loneliness at no cost to the taxpayer, is also a minister in the Government which has sanctioned budget cuts which have exacerbated the problem of loneliness for old people.

Question again : "Is Jeremy Hunt really a man for old people ?"
Answer : Clearly, by implication : "No !"

 My earlier posts about lonely old men in Britain before Jeremy decided to highlight their plight :

* Britain is no country and a country for more and more lonely old men
Saturday, 6 April 2013

The charity, 'Women's Royal Voluntary Service' has produced this report :

It looks at the correlation between the distance old men and women live from their family and their feelings of loneliness and reveals that :

* as a result of  the fragmented nature of families today, a  large number of over 75 year olds have their closest children living  a substantial distance away from them. 

* 82% of children who have moved away from their old parents have done so for work reasons.

* nearly three-quarters of over 75s who live alone 'feel lonely'.

* those old men and women who live alone see their children less often than those who live with their spouse.

* 342,000 old men and women over 75 said they felt 'trapped in their own home' through lack of suitable transport.

* the situation has been exacerbated by cuts in public tansport services which has hit 14% and now 10% said they get out less because they have no way of getting out by themselves, have lost their independence and 6% had 'increased feelings' of loneliness in 5% of isolation.
* Britain is a country in the grip of an epidemic of lonely old men
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
An article in 'The Daily Mail' yesterday was entitled :

Old Age Pensioners 'spend 100 days a year 'on their own' as campaigners warn of 'loneliness epidemic' among nation's elderly

It was based on a survey of over 1000 old people commissioned by 'Associated Retirement Community Operators' into the extent of loneliness among them which concluded that : 
*  more than 66 million hours are spent alone by people aged over 65 in Britain each day, equivalent to each person over 65 spending more than 100 days alone each year..
* 24% felt lonely 'some' or 'most of the time'.

* almost one in five (18 %) of over-75s said that they 'sometimes go a whole weekend without seeing and speaking to another person'.

* over half of respondents (54%) said they felt 'unable to talk about this loneliness with their family' or 'their children' (46 %).

* London was the loneliest place in the country to grow old, with over 65s spending an average of 7.8 hours on their own each day.

In addition, the survey challenged the widely held belief that the main concern for older people is 'staying in their own home', because when asked : 'what worried them most about getting old ?',
'poor health' came out top  at 32%, while 'having to leave the family home' most concerned just 4%.

Jon Gooding, Chairman of the 'Associated Retirement Community Operators', said:
"We are in the grip of a loneliness epidemic. People are fearful of their declining health, and yet appear to be unprepared for old age. Couple this with the fact that in 2033 there will be 3.3million people over the age of 85 in the UK and it becomes clear that we face a momentous challenge".
The Report could be coupled with another in the newspaper last year :

 More than three million elderly people face a life of loneliness because of family break-ups and a lack of friendly neighbours

This time the research, commissioned by 'Age UK' and based on 1,000 respondents, concluded that :
  * around three and a half million old people face a life alone and without help or friendship from their neighbours
because, either they 'do not want to be a burden 'or think their neighbours 'always seem to be busy'.

* warned that loneliness affects physical health and can be as damaging as smoking or obesity to an old  person.

* 700,000 people aged over 65 say they are 'often', or even 'always lonely', and the same number 'do not know their neighbours at all'.

* over half of all old people see the television as their 'main form of company'.

* during winter, isolation can also intensify, having an adverse effect on physical and mental well-being with some studies showing that feelings of loneliness can be equivalent to well-established risk factors such as obesity and smoking.

Another article in January this year was entitled :

'Loneliness map' to help isolated elderly amid concerns of effects it has on nation's health

It made the following points, that :

* Government Ministers are trying to measure loneliness amid concerns it is having devastating consequences on the nation’s health and the Department of Health is drawing up a map which will pinpoint which areas of the country have the highest levels of isolation.

* there is growing evidence that loneliness can cause health problems and lead to higher rates of dementia, heart disease and high blood pressure and depression and also leads to people going to their hospital or doctor more frequently, just for the company  and they are more likely to move into a care home earlier.
* For the first time, officials will ask local councils and National Health Service  Trusts to carry out surveys of the levels of loneliness within their communities and if they are found to be high, authorities will be urged to provide extra support such as befriending services and transport to day centres.

* Norman Lamb, the 'Care and Support Minister' said:
"For the first time we will be aiming to define the extent of the problem by introducing a national measure for loneliness. We will be encouraging local authorities, NHS organisations and others to get better at measuring the condition in their communities. Once they have this information, they can come up with the right solutions to address loneliness and isolation.".

* Laura Ferguson, Director of the 'Campaign to End Loneliness'  said :
 "Loneliness is a major health issue. An effective measure of isolation and loneliness is an important step to improving the lives of the hundreds of thousands of older people who are chronically lonely. This national measure can only help those making local health and care decisions to prioritise loneliness as a health issue, and one that they will tackle."

* Dr Anne Hayden, a GP in Dorset, said she trimmed £80,000 from the NHS’s budget by setting up a 'befriending scheme' for old patients who frequently came to the surgery, who did not have any obvious symptoms and doctors suspected were 'lonely' and felt 'unable to cope with life' and as part of the scheme, volunteers visit the patients and help out with jobs around the home as well as offering advice and support

* Britain is no country for 100,000 lonely old men on their own today
Christmas Day 2011

My posting on December 16th about a large number of old men on their own at Christmas was based on figures from 'Friends of the Elderly' is confirmed by a poll for 'The Centre for Social Justice'. This also found that 250,000 old people are on their own today and working on the basis that old women outnumber old men my conservative guesstimate for the men is 100,000.

So, if we take a hypothetical old man called 'Joe' and ask why he is alone this Christmas we find that :

* like 2 out of 5 men, Joe is separated from his wife who remarried and his children have to divide their time between him and their mother and possibly her husband's family, so they might be stretched 3 ways at Christmas.

* Joe's ‘silver separation’ from his wife in 2009, constituted 2 of the 11,500
over-60s were granted a divorce in that year.

* doesn't get much consolation from the Centre's Executive Director, Gavin Poole,who said: "Today’s findings are heart-wrenching. We know about the tragic impact of family breakdown on the youngest members of our society but now we’re seeing the consequences for older people. For so many to spend Christmas Day alone while their family celebrates elsewhere is a modern tragedy."

* along with half of those polled cited the television as his main form of company

* Britain is no country for old lonely men at Christmas
Friday, 16 December 2011

Some 500,000 old people, many of them old men, are facing the prospect of spending this Christmas alone.

A survey by the Charity,'Friends of the Elderly', has revealed that a quarter of people would not be inviting older relatives or local residents to their Christmas 'dos' and more people are keen to help animals than old people.

The survey also found that 44% of people said they simply 'did not have the time' to visit an older person, while others said they 'could not be bothered' to visit or felt older people 'already received enough visits'.

The survey found that for the majority of people Christmas is 'about spending time with family and friends', while a tenth highlighted the 'religious aspect' with the same number saying it is 'about shopping'.

Richard Furze, the Charity's Chief Executive, said:

" The effects of isolation on older people, including loneliness, depression, feelings of low self-worth, poor health and diet, can be devastating, with isolated individuals being less likely to obtain the services they need or seek help. We understand that people are incredibly busy today, and especially at Christmas, but we urge people to get more involved with the older people around them - and not just at Christmas."

Sadly, Richard, I fear that Britain in future will have more and more old men on their own at Christmas and pictures like this will be become less and less common.

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