CommunityHealth and wellbeing

Talking about loneliness

Community perspectives on loneliness in the over 50s

Undertaken for Tower Hamlets Public Health with Account 3, this participatory research project explores the impact of living in Tower Hamlets on loneliness among older people in the Borough. The project involved the training of 20 local people in participatory research methods in order to equip them with the skills, attitudes and tools to engage with diverse communities across three  Tower Hamlets wards – Bethnal Green, St Peters and Mile End.

In the course of the project community researchers engaged with over 600 people in both opportunistic public settings and in closed sessions where older people go – in the street, library, clubs, parks, cafes and faith groups. In addition we held in-depth semi-structured interviews with 10 individuals to gain in-depth incites into the experience of loneliness in older age.

Research findings

Positive factors:

  • Good transport links
  • Feeling safe and secure
  • Clubs, activities and social prescribing
  • Support from friends, family and neighbourhoods
  • Support from front line workers including carers, cleaners, gardeners and housing officers
  • Pets
  • Good communication and information
  • Good and accessible health services
  • Volunteers and volunteering

Negative factors:

  • Depression, anxiety and stress
  • Bereavement and living alone
  • Poor communications / language barriers
  • Financial pressures and debt
  • Poor housing and environment
  • Lack of neighbourliness / transient community
  • Digital exclusion
  • Cuts to health services and support groups
  • Incapacity and incontinence
Community suggestions and ideas for action
  • Buddying and mentoring schemes
  • Changing attitudes / being friendly / neighbourly / sharing a cup of tea
  • Making the roads and pavements accessible and less hazardous
  • Connecting people to clubs and activities
  • Providing consistency and time with carers and other health professionals
  • Bring young and old together through inter-generational projects
  • Talk about mental health
  • Develop and extend activities in libraries
  • Make social media accessible to everyone
  • Invest in housing and the environment
  • Make use of under-used assets (empty shops / properties)

The full report is available to download for free here.


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