PUBLIC TALK: Loneliness: the silent global epidemic in an ageing world
A public lecture by Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing (IFA).
In our rapidly ageing world, loneliness is quickly becoming a public health crisis with significant consequences that will impact every Australian in one way or another. Improved life expectancy often brings with it the loss of family and friends, not to mention the loss of a purpose in community. Findings from the UK government commission on loneliness in 2017 showed for the first time the extent of this often-invisible yet growing social stain.
More than 9 million people in the UK often or always feel lonely, and some 200,000 older people in Britain had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month. Loneliness does not discriminate by age, gender, community, background or wealth and most often has a negative impact on a person’s mental and physical health including increased risk of depression, anxiety and dementia, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.
Living in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization has not diminished rates of loneliness, for example, in the United States they have doubled since the 1980s. In Japan elder loneliness is a recognised phenomenon that has led a great number of older people—especially widows—to engage in petty theft so they can go to jail; economic difficulties being a factor, but more than anything, they do this to have someone with whom to talk and ultimately to avoid a ‘solitary death.’
Older people are not a homogeneous group but rather a growing diverse population with rich life experiences that shape the way they think and respond to loss and loneliness. This lecture will provide a glimpse into the way different countries are responding to the social situation of loneliness towards a healthier ageing population. As much as we would like to think that there is an easy answer, it goes far beyond offering someone a cup of tea.
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