Tackling loneliness as new dementia hub opens

St Ambrose Church, Leyland
St Ambrose Church, Leyland

An important new dementia hub will be launched in Leyland this week as part of a project to help reduce social isolation.

Figures have shown ‘worrying’ findings regarding loneliness and the older generation.

Passionate about tackling loneliness, Labour MP Jo Cox set up a commission on the problem before her murder in June last year.

The cross-party Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is being taken forward by South Ribble MP Seema Kennedy, who is a co-chair of the commission.

The first dementia hub meeting at Halls For All, at St Ambrose Church, Moss Lane, Leyland, will take place tomorrow.

The project is being developed jointly by Leyland Neighbourhood Forum and Western Parishes Neighbourhood Forum.

There will be several experts on hand for those attending to talk to - including Alzheimers Society, Birchall Blackburn Solicitors, Chadwicks Solicitors, Preston Care and Repair, and Gateway officers.

People with dementia and their friends and family will be able to access expert advice on legal issues, financial matters and healthcare.

Halls For All is also running a Memories Meeting Place cafe. The hub and cafe - open on the first Wednesday of each month from 1pm to 3pm.

Conservative MP Mrs Kennedy said: “Loneliness is a silent epidemic across the UK. Now is the time to break that silence by starting a conversation. We need a national conversation about the scale and impact of the problem. But just as importantly, every single one of us can start a conversation with somebody that will help break the cycle of silent suffering and unintentional neglect.”

Meanwhile, Gransnet, the popular social networking site for the over 50s, conducted a survey in association with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

The results revealed worrying findings, with 56 per cent of its users who are lonely saying they have never spoken about their loneliness to anyone, and the vast majority of that number saying their close friends and family would be quite surprised, or even astonished, to hear they feel lonely.

The survey also revealed 93 per cent of users admit it is possible to feel lonely even when you have a partner or family, with 82 per cent agreeing talking about feelings of loneliness is much easier when they are online and anonymous.

Age UK research shows 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely, and that half a million people over 60 usually spend every day alone.

Older people are at higher risk of being lonely as they are more likely to experience deteriorating health and the death of a loved one. Disability, poor health, poverty and limited access to transport all contribute to feeling cut off from family, friends and local communities.

Closures of bank branches, post offices, shops, libraries and bus routes, particularly in rural areas, can be devastating, too.

South Ribble is bidding to become a Dementia Friendly Borough.

Pioneering councillor Sue Jones, a member of the Leyland Neighbourhood Forum, said: “In January, we had a ‘listening’ event at St Ambrose where we looked at what the interest was for a hub.

“I went to look at dementia hubs in Lancaster, we visited dementia cafes in the area. St Ambrose already have a Memories Meeting place so the hub is part of that.

“The idea of the hub is, it is offering support, help and advice to the carers and we found at the listening event there was a need by people to find out more than they knew already.”

As regards social isolation in general, she said: “It’s not going to go away. With the ageing population it’s going to be more difficult and it’s a problem in some of the rural areas.

“In St Ambrose ward, when Fishwick’s collapsed one of the main buses stopped that went up to Wright’s Fold. We visited quite a number of people there and they were quite devastated by that. Avabus has been a lifesaver for them.”

Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, also a member of the forum, said: “As someone who has spent part of my profession working for Age Concern, I’m very well aware of the real challenges loneliness and isolation can bring, and as people live longer, more and more people are finding they are completely alone.

“Voluntary organisations and councils can do a lot of good in bringing people together and providing information people need in combating this thing.

“The Dementia Hub is a perfect example of this.”