The Office of National Statistics recently released their report on older people and loneliness and found that 34% of those over 52 felt lonely sometimes or often. This increased to 46% for those aged 80 or over. Unsurprisingly, the report also found that people who have been widowed, separated or divorced, or those who were in poor health were more likely to report feeling lonely.
With an ageing population undoubtedly comes a rising cost of government expenditure. In 2010, the Government estimated the impact older people had on the NHS. The average NHS expenditure for retired households was nearly double that from their non-retired counterparts. The Government’s belt-tightening that has led to a squeeze on adult social care budgets is only going to make things worse. Many community groups, from drop-in centres to arts and crafts groups, which often provide the only interaction some people have with others, are at risk of closing.
The UK might consider looking to Denmark for answers. Co-housing is an intentional community, created and managed by residents themselves. People have their own private accommodation but also have access to communal facilities. Originally built in Denmark by a group of families who were spurred on after reading an article by influential author Bodil Graae titled “Every child should have 100 parents”, a group, Older Women’s Co-Housing (OWCH), is taking this idea and designing the first co-housing scheme in the UK for women over 50.
Co-housing communities recreate a neighbourly environment now lost in parts of today’s society. They combat alienation and isolation by providing a support network, so people can turn to their neighbours for help or simply meet to share interests and activities. Although not for everyone, these mutually supportive schemes, could transform people’s lives in their older age so they have a better quality of life but also reduce the dependence on social services.