Churchill & Dame Esther: Loneliness 'shame' for older people

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Despite the recent focus on loneliness in the older generation, 55% of over 60s still believe there is a stigma attached to admitting to being lonely, says new research from retirement housebuilders, Churchill Retirement Living.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Churchill Ambassador: “I know from personal experience that there is still a stigma to admitting you’re lonely, but I believe we should be honest about our loneliness, so that others can help.

In a study of 1,000 retirement aged people conducted for Churchill a further one in four said they personally felt ‘too ashamed’ to admit they feel lonely to others.

Meanwhile, 25% not only have too much of a ‘stiff upper lip’ when it comes to loneliness, they also feel like too much of a burden to admit when they’re unwell or need help in any way. This figure rose to 40% in widowed people.

Many older people admitted they have even lied to loved ones about feeling lonely. Three in 10 British people aged 60 and over said ‘I hide the fact that I’m feeling lonely by telling friends and loved ones that I enjoy the peace and quiet’. Again this figure was even higher in widowed people (40%).

Of the widowed people questioned, 42% also admitted to feeling lonely in recent years, as did 39% of those who are single.

A quarter of people aged over 60 have said they believe their loneliness has affected their health in one way or another, but feel unable or ashamed to tell people. In single people, this result rose, with one in four admitting their health had been impacted

Nearly half of all those questioned admitted they have, at some point or another, hidden the fact they are feeling unwell from friends and loved ones.

These finding are echoed by the 90,000 callers to The Silver Line Helpline, most of whom are older people who live alone, and say they cannot admit their feelings of loneliness to anyone else, and indeed they have nobody else to talk to.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Churchill Ambassador and founder of The Silver Line said:

“I know from personal experience that there is still a stigma to admitting you’re lonely, but I believe we should be honest about our loneliness, so that others can help. We have a huge loneliness epidemic in this country, and it isn’t enough just to talk about it, we have to find ways of solving it.

“Let’s all work together to leave loneliness behind in 2016. There is no shame in loneliness, and there are many things that can be done to break down the barriers it creates. When you know how much damage loneliness can do to physical and mental health, you realise how crucial it is that we all we try to solve this problem.”

The research also found:

  • 44% of retirement aged people said they don’t have a lot of family nearby.
  • Sadly, one in five British people aged over 60 said they see their family less than once a month.
  • Meanwhile, those questioned said it had been an average of seven days since they last spent the day with family or friends.

Spencer McCarthy, Churchill Retirement Living’s Chairman, added:

“These results make for sobering reading, particularly when you look at the numbers who have hidden illness or feel they are a burden to others or go for days or even months without seeing family or friends.
“It’s fair to assume that with the stigma of loneliness that many feel, the real numbers that are lonely could be even higher. However, there is help and support out there, whether it’s through joining a local group, calling The Silver Line Helpline or coming into one of our developments for a cup of tea and a chat. Many of our owners have had their lives transformed by moving.”

Churchill will be working alongside Dame Esther Rantzen over the next three years. The retirement housebuilder, which helps promote companionship, and secure, independent living for the over 60s, will give a percentage of its profits through its charity, The Churchill Foundation, to The Silver Line over the coming year.

**Dame Esther Rantzen is available for interview on Friday 15th January** To arrange an interview or for more information, please contact: Ellie Irwin T: 01425 462165/ M: 07818 689723/ E: ellie(dot)irwin(at)churchillretirement(dot)co(dot)uk

  • Survey conducted on in December 2015.
  • Total number of respondents – 1,000 British people aged 60-99

Churchill Retirement Living

  • To find out more about Churchill go to or call 0800 161 5712
  • Churchill Retirement Living specialises in the provision of purpose built apartments designed for those aged over 60.

Benefits of Retirement housing:

  • Reduces demands on Health and Social Services as single visits are possible to pool resources.
  • Provides companionship and a community which reduces isolation, loneliness and depression.
  • Helps to maintain an independent lifestyle and heath and general wellbeing.
  • Safety and security features reduce anxieties and worries experienced by many elderly people.

The Silver Line

  • The Silver Line (0800 4 70 80 90) is the only free, national, confidential, 24/7 helpline for older people that provides information and support 365-days a year

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Ellie Irwin
since: 07/2009
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