Don’t let neighbours be lonely this Christmas….

Following the news story about an 89 year old man seeking work to escape boredom, he is now due to start work at a cafe after the owners of a family-run business spotted his request.

This is a timely reminder that isolation and loneliness can have huge impacts on people’s health – especially older people.

War veteran Joe Bartley,  placed an advert in a local paper: “Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!”

Joe said he had lived alone since his wife died two years ago, and had been lonely. According the Guardian interview “When you live on your own there is no one to speak to. Since she died I’ve moved into a flat and it’s a big block. Once you walk into that flat it’s like solitary confinement.”

This time last year, John Lewis’s Christmas campaign focussed on loneliness ‘Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”, and this story serves as a timely reminder to check on friends, relatives and neighbours.

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) works closely with the NHS to identify vulnerable people aged 65 and over. One of the aspects firefighters look for when carrying out home safety checks is isolation and loneliness.

As well as fitting handrails, or fixing hazards, firefighters also looking for issues such as loneliness and fuel poverty. This could lead to people being signposted to services and organisations which could offer help and support, and ensuring the relevant organisations are informed about people who may be struggling.

Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has previously praised the work of fire and rescue services and the partnership work with NHS, helping to reduce pressure on services in the future.

NHS England, Public Health England, the Fire and Rescue Service, Age UK and the Local Government Association have a consensus statement which sets out how the organisations will work together to encourage local action and minimise service demand, while improving the quality of life of people with long-term conditions.

It means fire services across the country will aim to carry out more ‘Safe and Well’ checks in people’s homes when they visit. By extending the 670,000 home safety checks carried out each year into a ‘Safe and Well visits’, this will help vulnerable people and those with complex conditions.

When the consensus statement was launched, Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive officer said: “By preventing issues such as falls and broken hips we are also reducing A&E visits, isolation and depression and by spotting social issues earlier we can help people to stay in their own homes for longer.”

In Greater Manchester for example, firefighters form a Community Risk Intervention Team to provide a multifaceted response to keep people safe in their homes, reducing demand on ambulance services and facilitate early discharge from hospital.


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