Posties throughout the United Kingdom will take extra time out of their day to connect with the elderly in a bid to help tackle the growing number people experiencing loneliness.
The new initiative, which was launched by Theresa May’s government on Monday, is part of a broader strategy to combat loneliness across the UK. Medical experts have become increasingly aware of the scourge of loneliness in recent years and the impact it can have on the elderly in particular.
In a bid to tackle the growing issue, the new partnership with the Royal Mail sees posties make a point of checking up on the elderly by hand delivering mail and connecting them with support from their families or communities if necessary.
“Loneliness is a reality for too many people in our society today… it can affect anyone of any age and background,” May said in a statement. “Across our communities there are people who can go for days, weeks or even a month without seeing a friend or family member.”
Sadly, around 200,000 older people in the UK have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month. Furthermore, three qarters of British GPs reported seeing between one and five people a day suffering from loneliness.
The issue is prevalent across the world and can lead to mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety. According to Beyond Blue, 10-15 per cent of older people experience depression across Australia, and about 10 per cent are struggling with anxiety. While those who live in residential aged care facilities are more at risk, at around 35 per cent.
In addition to the postie initiative, British GPs will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services. The service, known as ‘social prescribing,’ will connect people with community workers rather than going down the medication path to solve the issue and increase happiness.
Funding will also be provided to help connect patients to a range of activities, including cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups.
The UK appointed a special Minister for Loneliness in January, in a pledge help the one in 10 Brits who suffered from social isolation.
At the time, May said that “loneliness is the sad reality of modern life” for too many people.
Speaking of the new government initiatives on Monday, Minister for Loneliness Tracey Crouch said by working together the lonely will feel more connected to the community.
“Our strategy sets out a powerful vision for addressing this generational challenge. By bringing together health services, businesses, local authorities, charities and community groups we will raise awareness of loneliness and help people build connections to lead happier and healthier lives,” she explained.