Cheshire East Council and its partners are urging residents to check in on elderly friends and neighbours this festive period.
NHS England warned today (Tuesday) that loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of emergency hospital admissions, which are expected to rise this weekend.
According to the NHS, a study in South West England showed that 45% of elderly patients admitted to hospital as an emergency said they were socially isolated.
More than half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone, according to the Office for National Statistics, and two fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) say television is their main form of company.
Research also shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to health. It is believed that a lack of social connections creates as much risk of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In some instances, it is thought to be worse than being obese or physically inactive.
Councillor Janet Clowes, Cabinet member in charge of care and health in the community, said: “It is at times like this, when the nights are drawing in and Christmas gets closer, that we naturally want to be surrounded by families and friends.
“Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience and it can have wider impacts on physical health.
“Please, if you have not yet done so, do check in on your friends, neighbours and family if you believe they could be lonely or vulnerable at this time. Just a simple visit could really make a person’s day.”
Cllr Clowes has also issued a message to Cheshire East residents this winter, at this link: https://vimeo.com/113722819.
A spokesperson for NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Dropping in on a friend, neighbour or loved one over the festive period will not only show that you care but also help ease pressure on urgent and emergency health services at a critical time of year.
“And we can all play a role in managing demand for services by ensuring we choose the right care at the right time.”
Pamela Cairns, Marketing Manager at Wulvern Housing, added: “Loneliness and isolation amongst our older people is a very real concern. We can all think about how we could help.
“There are support services around so, if you know someone who is vulnerable, find out what’s available in your area and take the information round to them – the visit and the information could make a genuine difference.”
A new free helpline for elderly people has been launched by the Silver Line charity, which operates 24/7. The line is staffed every day and night and can be reached by calling 0800 4 70 80 90 or 0300 4 70 80 90 from mobiles.
Residents can help friends and neighbours, who do not have internet access, by downloading and printing off information from the website and giving it to them.