Loneliness in old age could be reduced – new report

A new report from the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) finds that residential housing (retirement village) with flexible care provision (extra care) can have a major impact in promoting residents’ quality of life and reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.


The report, funded by Audley Retirement and Bupa, surveyed residents of retirement villages on quality of life and used a statistical technique to compare the results with a group living in the community.  Interestingly the research revealed that village living can promote greater independence and provide greater choice in planning for later life than would otherwise be available. The research shows that the community environment that a village can offer has the potential to reduce social isolation, particularly for residents who move from rural or remote homes. The report,  published on the ILC-UK website on Wednesday 19th August is a wake-up-call regarding the growing numbers of older people who are feeling ‘chronically lonely’ in the UK.



Statistics gathered for the report suggests that the average person in a retirement village experiences half the amount of loneliness (12.17%) than those in the community at large (22.83%). Nearly two-thirds of respondents living in retirement villages (64.2%) could be classified as not at all lonely, and over four out of five (81.7%) said they hardly ever or never felt isolated. Over half (54.7%) often felt ‘in tune’ with those around them, and nearly four in five (79.1%) hardly ever or never felt left out.


People living in this type of accommodation also reported a strong sense of control over their daily lives, nearly 10% higher than those living in the community. Control is a crucial component of quality of life measurement.1 They also felt secure in their homes, with 97% of respondents agreeing that they felt safe where they lived. Both of these findings were assessed using recognised quality of life measures.2


The UK is faced with an ageing population which, the ILC-UK warns, is going to become increasingly difficult to support. It is projected that in 20 years’ time, the number of people aged 85 and over will be almost two and a half times larger than in 2010.3  As well as having an emotional impact, loneliness can also present physical health implications; research has shown that loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults4 and even present people with a 64% greater risk of dementia.5  There are currently 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely.6 which, if left to increase in line with the population, could create a large burden on the NHS.


The research calls on the government to:

  • Identify ways of working with the private sector to stimulate the building of new good quality retirement housing.
  • Encourage people in early older age to consider making such a move.
  • In light of the new pensions freedoms, consider offering information and advice on such housing opportunities to people who make enquiries into how to manage their retirement finances.


1. See for example: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1648/1/qualityoflife.pdf

2. The Older People’s Quality of Life (OPQOL) questionnaire comprises 13 questions, which incorporate the views of older people with theoretical measures

3. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_258607.pdf National population projections, 2012-based, Office for National Statistics, 2013

5. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/dec/10/loneliness-dementia-link Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (Amstel) led by Dr Tjalling Jan Holwerda from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, 2012   

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