Move Together aims to tackle the fast-growing loneliness epidemic
Posted: Wed, 15 Mar 2023 14:23
It's 2023 and staggeringly, the loneliness epidemic is not getting any better, in fact it's getting much worse, with chronic loneliness having increased by a million since the pandemic hit, now at 3.3 million according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
An ONS poll in 2022 showed 38% of young people aged between 16 -29 said they "often", "always" or "sometimes" felt lonely. This compares with 17% of over 70s, with more women reporting feelings of loneliness.
A Health Foundation study also found that nearly half (49.8%) of those aged 65 and over and living alone have three or more long-term health conditions, compared to 42.2% of those living with others; while around one in four elderly people living alone have a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, compared with one in five of those who live with a partner, friend, or family.
Programmes like Move Together play a vital role in helping those living alone, including elderly people, often with reduced mobility, and people struggling with long term health conditions to move more. According to Age UK, there are 5,200 more pensioners living on their own than there were 10 years ago in the county.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK said: "The fact that there are significantly greater numbers of older people living alone and the likelihood this will grow in the years to come has big implications for our society as a whole and the NHS.
Move Together is as much about improving residents' mental health as their physical health, as the two are inextricably linked. Feedback from participants has shown that many people have built connections through the programme, meeting at health walks or seated exercise classes and helping them to feel part of a community, and less alone.
We heard from 66-year-oldTerence, one of the 2816 people referred to Move Together:
"I suffer with depression and anxiety and during COVID this increased and I stopped going out due to the anxiety it would cause me. I was very inactive, not moving and my health wasn't good. I was just looking for some help to pull me out of the rut I had gotten myself into."
Prior to July 2022 when Terence joined Move Together, he was inactive, and at 3 months in Terence reported feeling less tired and breathless, and being able to move more easily. Terence's health has improved both physically and mentally, he told us that it was the "feel good factor" of physical activity that helps his depression and anxiety and keeps him motivated.
Move Together aims to provide connections to help improve people's sense of community, building their confidence and strength. Terence reported the impact his increase in physical activity has had on him; "I'm feeling more alert and wanting to start living again. Wanting to socialise again and get out and about."
The benefits of Move Together reach way beyond physical activity. People engaging with the programme are more connected, more confident and more motivated. Most importantly, they are being given the tools they need to stay active in the future – together.
For more information about Move Together, please visit https://www.activeoxfordshire.org/move-together