A report by the Jo Cox Commission revealed last week that nine million adults are suffering from loneliness which is as damaging to their health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and obesity. The Government has been called upon to take steps to lessen the burden of the problem. Betty Edwards plucked up the courage to attend a social club for the over 50s, a move she describes as the ‘best thing she’s ever done’ and is encouraging others like her to do the same.The great grandmother was married to husband Ken for 46 years. The 71-year-old’s sudden death in 2010 came as a huge shock to his family.
The report found that most GPs see as many as five patients a day who have difficulty with loneliness, and estimated the cost to employers of loneliness among staff at £2.5 billion a year. People who are lonely face a risk of premature death a third higher than others, it found. Just six weeks ago Betty took steps to turn her life around and began attending the Springhill Library Over 50s Club, which meets weekly on a Wednesday between 2:30pm and 4:30pm.
She added: “I took the plunge and attended the club after a neighbour brought the leaflet round to me asking for help to understand it. Since then I haven’t looked back, we play games, knit, use computers and chat. “Attending the group has made such a difference to me. Before, I was just sitting in the house doing nothing. I feel more confident and not so withdrawn. My world is much happier and I get to meet other people and chat about things. It is the best thing I’ve done.”
Springhill Library Over 50s Club is currently attended by 15 men and women aged between 50 and 80 years-old. It is one of many clubs running across the allocated some funding by Ageing Better in Birmingham, a National Lottery funded programme which aims to drive down loneliness and isolation in older age – steps the Government is now being called upon to take. So far 2,723 people have benefited from a scheme which was launched in April 2015 and delivered by an Ageing Better Partnership, led by BVSC. It is funded by a £6million, six-year grant of National Lottery funding from the Big Lottery Fund and is part of the Ageing Better national strategic programme.