Age UK Oxfordshire firmly believes that everybody should have somebody. Staggeringly, as many as 13,000 people in Oxfordshire can go a month without speaking to anybody.
It is shocking that the effect of loneliness and isolation on mortality is comparable to the impact of well-known risk factors such as obesity, and has a similar influence as cigarette smoking.
But loneliness is preventable. This year Age UK has launched a national initiative called No One should have No One and firmly believes that everybody should have somebody.
Locally, Age UK Oxfordshire is teaming up with Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue to help raise awareness of the silent and often unnoticed danger that is loneliness. Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue will be distributing 1,000 goodie bags filled with useful items and information to older vulnerable people that they come into contact with.
One way that Age UK Oxfordshire works to combat loneliness is through their Phone Friends service.
Phone Friends, Age UK Oxfordshire’s unfunded telephone befriending service, make approximately 500 calls to older people each week. Currently over 230 of the most lonely and isolated people in Oxfordshire are receiving at least one call a week from one of Age UK ’s 37 Phone Friends volunteers. This included 382 evening calls and 234 weekend calls made by volunteers from their homes last year.
A spokesman for Age UK Oxfordshire said: “Our Phone Friends are some of the loneliest and isolated people in society, home-bound or even bed-bound, unable to take advantage of other services such as lunch clubs or activities and often feeling forgotten and overlooked as a result.
“It is vital that this service, the Information and Advice line and other Age UK Oxfordshire services receive funds in order to continue. As you can imagine, at this time of year, that one phone call from a phone friend can be a lifeline.”
Mick Dillon, Age UK Oxfordshire’s new Chief Executive, is passionate about combating loneliness. Mick said: “It is tragic that loneliness is so prevalent today and having such a negative impact on so many people. We should all make a point of looking out for all our neighbours.”
Chris Barber, Station Manager for Oxfordshire County Council Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Christmas and the New Year can be lonely times of the year. Over the festive period please take a moment to check on elderly relatives, friends or neighbours and make sure they are safe and well. Age UK Oxfordshire are one of the partners we are working with to raise awareness of the support and services available to the residents of Oxfordshire, helping them stay safe and well at home”.
If you would like to help combat loneliness you can do so by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/ageukoxfordshire/noone or by texting AUKO33 £10 (or an amount of your choice) to 70070.