Older people in Edinburgh face loneliness crisis this winter

Yesterday marked almost thirty years of the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons, and, in a few hours, Age Scotland will hold their 75th anniversary event at Holyrood, with a speech from Christina McKelvie, the Minister for Older People and Equalities.

According to local charity, Vintage Vibes, who tackle loneliness and isolation in the over 60s in Edinburgh, there are approximately 11,000 chronically lonely older people in the capital – less than 5% of these individuals are supported through programmes like the Vintage Vibes befriending project.

In Scotland, loneliness in older people is particularly pertinent. “We’re getting older, faster than the rest of the UK,” Age Scotland states. “Loneliness is a growing public health crisis and is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Earlier this year, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, launched a national draft strategy to address the growing problem of loneliness and isolation. Freeman said: “We are leading the way when it comes to tackling this and will be the first country in the UK, and one of the first in the world, to develop a national strategy to address loneliness and isolation.”

However, nearly six months after the end of the consultation period, Age Scotland claims the project has become “sluggish”.

Today, Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour, outlined what he believes happened: “I think the strategy was good on paper but has not been followed up properly by Scottish government. I think we need to now go out and actually put some meat onto the bones.

“We can have as many strategies as we want but unless we are actually implementing them in local communities then it won’t work. I think we need to take these ideas an engage people locally and then get on and do it.”

By Emer Harrison

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