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People need people

Loneliness in the older generation can be combatted through better housing design, building ‘cities for all ages’, and encouraging ‘socialisers’ to motivate outliers into activity, according to a new Demos report. Over 1m older people always or often feel lonely and the report finds a ‘people & place’ strategy is central to tackling isolation, and that redesigning ‘cities for all ages’ could help prevent social disengagement. 

The report – Building Companionship: how better design can combat loneliness in later life – was undertaken to better understand how loneliness amongst older people can be tackled.  It comes amid growing concerns around isolation, with research for the report finding that those aged over 80 are almost twice as likely to report feeling lonely compared to their younger counterparts (14.8% of 16-64s report this, compared to 29.2% over the over 80s).

The report highlights wide regional variations in loneliness: Londoners aged 55+ report the highest levels, with four out of five (81%) feeling lonely at least some of the time, citing a lack of community spirit and support. In contrast, Yorkshire and Humberside emerged as the least lonely region, with 47% of over 55s saying they had not felt lonely at any point during the past 12 months, with local communities and neighbours playing a large role.

The impact of loneliness is significant and well documented – from poorer mental health to a greater risk of falling and hospitalisation. This, in turn, has obvious cost implications for the NHS, social care and the wider economy.  The report looked at the high levels of companionship found in retirement developments for lessons that could be learnt for how wider building design could address social isolation.

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Demos:  Designing housing to build companionship in later life

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