Barbara Keeley MP

LABOUR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR WORSLEY AND ECCLES SOUTH

Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness – help for older people experiencing loneliness

I am concerned by Age UK's estimate that over 1.2 million older people say they are chronically lonely.

Tackling loneliness is a vital issue. Too often loneliness can go undetected, as many people put up with it in silence. According to Age UK there are 200,000 older people who have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month and 3.9 million older people who say that the television is their main form of company.

Recent evidence suggests that loneliness can have a serious impact on the physical and mental health of older people. It can be associated with increased rates of depression, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. I have learned that loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

I believe that loneliness is a public health issue and that more could be done to treat it as such. I also believe there is a role for Government in recognising the impact of loneliness.

Working with 13 charities including Age UK, the Jo Cox Commission aims to shine a spotlight on the different aspects of loneliness and to look at positive ways to tackle the issues. I support the work of the Commission - a cross-party coalition of MPs, charities and campaigners working to take action on loneliness in my late colleague's memory.

I would like to see a system of safety checks for older people who are vulnerable, identifying risks to their health and preventing problems such as loneliness and depression from escalating.

Locally, I am continuing the work of the Commission by looking at how loneliness is affecting people in Salford and at finding ways we can tackle the problem.

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