Tackling loneliness through heritage interactions.
Historic England is a member of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Tackling Loneliness Network: This comprises a range of high-profile charities, businesses, funders and national bodies.
The Network was formed by Government to help connect groups at risk of isolation and is providing recommendations to Baroness Diana Barran, the UK Minister for Loneliness, and Parliamentary Under Secretary for Civil Society and Department for Culture, Media and Sport Lords Minister.
The group launched a briefing paper on 24 May 2021. It sheds new light on the feelings of people in later life who were already experiencing chronic loneliness before the pandemic, and the challenges they might face as restrictions ease.
Loneliness is not, and should not be, an inevitable part of getting older, yet some people in later life are facing the compounded impact of loneliness and isolation, causing fear, anxiety, loss of hope and a mental health crisis. Despite the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, uncertain times lie ahead and many are deeply worried about what will happen over the coming months. The resilience of people in later life, and the volunteers and organisations who support them continues to be tested like never before. For people who told us loneliness was not just a product of lockdowns and shielding, but a symptom of their everyday life before the pandemic, the easing of restrictions is not a silver bullet. It is vital that the views and needs of people in later life are acted on when it comes to the country’s COVID recovery. As we emerge from the pandemic, the government must take forward learnings from COVID-19 - prioritise funding of mental health support during the pandemic recovery and beyond, increase the support for those who have been bereaved, and work with others to raise awareness of the seriousness of loneliness and how people can get support.
These figures paint a stark reality for people during the pandemic. For the 120,000 people with dementia living alone, loneliness was present long before the pandemic, but we know since the outbreak, 78% of people affected by dementia we surveyed have felt more lonely and isolated than ever before. The extremely damaging side-effects of lockdown - long periods of isolation, a loss of routine and social interaction – have caused significant mental health as well as physical health deterioration for people with dementia, many of them just ‘giving up’ on life, fading away. With restrictions now easing, there are things we can all do. Safely visiting a person with dementia really makes a difference even if they don’t seem to recognise you, or remember a visit or the details of a conversation - the positive feelings of love, happiness and comfort are evidenced to have a lasting effect. Many people that we’ve spoken to are concerned that their isolation and loneliness will continue as restrictions ease because the support services they used previously have either shut down or are yet to be reinstated. This is why we’re calling for a national rehabilitation strategy as we move out of the pandemic, implemented by a national clinical lead. This will ensure that people who’ve experienced significant deterioration in their condition during Covid-19 have the therapeutic support they need.