Amongst all the news and doom of the cuts agenda, life still goes on for the many older people we work with across London. With one in five older people below the poverty line and many living alone, and many with multiple health conditions to manage life isn’t easy. As services disappear the needs of our fellow Londoners remain.
There are many older people who can’t get out, who have no family or friends left who are profoundly lonely. The day centres, lunch clubs, may be considered outmoded models, but the need left behind continues. They filled the need of those most vulnerable to meet others, spend time with others, build friendships and enjoy time together. They filled the loneliness gap.
The pace of change is fast. In the past we had time to plan when services changed, we sought to keep friends together, we were mindful of the fragile structures that supported the most frail older people to keep dignity and control in their homes. We were fortunate to have the time to do this.
How are we going to support the loneliness gap in the future? Many day care and lunch club services took place in community buildings. The numbers of accessible, friendly community buildings are diminishing. These community assets are expensive to keep and maintain in the face of competing needs on budgets.
For older people the language about cuts and services doesn’t work. For them it wasn’t about a service, it was all about my club, my centre, seeing my friends. No one can say that any past model was perfect but what are we going to do in the short term future? Give the pace of change is immense how are we going to support the frailest amongst us to keep the friendships that they have made? How are we going to bridge the loneliness gap?