Direct interventions are services that reduce loneliness by directly increasing the quantity and/or quality of a person’s relationships. Once an individual experiencing loneliness is identified, commissioners should ensure there is a ‘menu’ of direct interventions available in three key areas:
Transport and technology are key in enabling an older person to maintain their existing relationships and the lack of access or availability of these services can be a serious barrier to an individual’s social connections.
Both services also have a far wider impact on an older person’s independence and their ability to access a range of services that can help reduce loneliness. Their importance is explored in the Gateway Services section.
Services that support older people to develop new relationships broadly fall into two categories:
Group-based approaches: Examples of social activities can include community choirs, coffee mornings and faith groups. Group-based activities can be particularly effective when they:
• Are targeted at a specific group e.g. men
• Involve participants in running the group
Group-based activities can also be effective when there are additional benefits offered other than just social contact, for example learning, health promotion, or support through difficult circumstances (mainly bereavement).
Case Study: Fit for the future – Age UK
Case Study: Open Age – London
Watch video on Open Age providing almost 400 weekly activities including performing arts, computer and iPad classes, dance and physical activity sessions.
Case Study: Men’s Sheds /Tools Company – Age UK Exeter
One-to-one approaches: One-to-one friendship provision can support older people who are unable to connect with existing relationships or have practical barriers, such as disabilities, that prevent them from getting out. The most common form of one-to-one approaches are befriending services through which an older person is matched with a worker or volunteer who visits or telephones them on a regular basis, although there is also scope for greater use of technology in this area. Befriending services are expanding to engage recipients in becoming befrienders and creating specialist models for particularly at- risk groups.
Case Study: Dementia Friendship Scheme – Age UK Coventry
Case Study: The Silver Line Helpline
Psychological support services should be made available to individuals experiencing loneliness who need help in changing their thinking about their social connections. Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are evidenced to be effective at addressing loneliness and should be made available as an option to those experiencing loneliness.
In Warwickshire a menu of psychological services is made available to older people who are experiencing a range of mental health issues, with positive impacts on their wellbeing. However, while the linkages between these mental health issues and loneliness and isolation are recognised, the more intensive services are only available to those with other mental health diagnoses.
• The mental health charity Mind has a produced a booklet aimed at those experiencing loneliness: How to Cope with Loneliness.