Social media fuels elderly isolation

Elderly social media web

Two charities that work with older people have joined forces after research showed that older people are missing out on social interactions

13th December 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Social media could be fuelling feelings of isolation amongst the elderly.

The Mental Health Foundation and Age Scotland have warned that loneliness is creating mental health problems among older Scots, with around 120,000 people suffering mental health issues as a result of isolation.

This has prompted calls for more to be done for elderly people to prevent isolation – including a welcome home box for those who have been discharged from long periods in hospital.

New research by the charities found that one in four people aged over 65 experience depression when they feel lonely, with 16% also feeling anxious.

The study found new technology could be exacerbating social isolation. Around 80% questioned said that spending time face to face with others improves their mental health. In contrast, around a fifth thought that technology, such as social media, is causing them to feel lonely as it has replaced face-to-face contact.

Lee Knifton, head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “It’s heartbreaking that so many older people feel they ought to cope with their loneliness themselves and it shows that many are not reaching out for help.

“But feeling lonely is nothing to be ashamed of – it’s a consequence of our fragmented society. Older people need to be supported to seek help and expect that there will be appropriate responses available.

“The mental health needs of older people need to be taken seriously and not just bundled as older people’s problems as they too often are.”

The survey follows research conducted by Age Scotland earlier this month which found that Christmas is the loneliest time of year for many older Scots. This year, 60,000 people aged over 65 will spend Christmas Day alone, an increase of 50% on two years ago, while 80,000 say they feel especially lonely over the festive period.

Brian Sloan, chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “It’s heartbreaking to think of so many older people suffering in silence, unwilling to reach out to family or friends for fear of being a burden. There’s a widespread belief that people should simply get on with it and cope by themselves, suggesting that serious mental health problems are going undiagnosed.”

The charities have published a 12 point action plan which aims to tackle social isolation amongst older people. Recommendations include creating a welcome home box featuring material which gives advice for those discharged from hospital, screening older people for depression and encouraging schools to team up with homes for the elderly to host inter-generational projects.