Community news

Beating social isolation can help you live longer

People over 52 years who are isolated from family and friends have a 26% higher death risk over a seven-year period, suggests research by the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London,

The survey of 6,500 older citizens finds that this risk is present, regardless of whether they consider themselves lonely.

The problem is being made worse by cuts to services for older people, said charity Age UK.

The report concludes that both social isolation and feeling lonely are associated with higher mortality rates, but after adjusting for factors such as underlying health conditions, only social isolation remained important.

That danger does not alter when researchers calculate whether or not someone feels lonely in their isolation.

The typical model of a person thought to be socially isolated is one with little or no contact with friends or family, who is older and/or unmarried and has a wider range of health conditions, including depression and long-standing mobility-limiting illnesses, such as lung disease and arthritis. They are also more likely to be female.

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK Charity Director-General, commented: 'This study shows more clearly than before that being lonely and isolated is not only miserable, it is a real health risk, increasing the risk of early death. Disability, poor health, poverty and no access to transport all contribute to older people feeling cut off from their family, friends and local community meaning many older people have little or no social interaction.'

'We all need to do more to bring older people into the heart of our communities, but at Age UK we are extremely worried that local authority budget cuts are exacerbating the problem of isolation for many older people. Across the country day care centres, often the only regular social life that many older people enjoy, are closing, social care support which can enable older people to leave the house is being cut down to the bare minimum, and too many older people are hidden behind closed doors struggling to cope.'

'At Age UK we provide support to older people to stay active and well, ranging from lunch clubs to exercise classes and would encourage everyone to help by staying in touch with older neighbours, family and friends.'

The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For help and information visit www.ageuk.org.uk

Join Air Ambulance Bike Ride

Cyclists are needed to join a bike ride which will support the work of Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance.

Volunteers are needed for either a 100 mile or 100 kilometre bike ride which will go through the three counties of the service. Both routes start and finish at the Surrey and Sussex helicopter base at Redhill Aerodrome.

More than 80 riders, including air ambulance crew members and former patients, took part in the inaugural Double 100 from Dunsfold Park, raising £12,000 for the charity.

Organisers are hoping for more than 100 entries in this year's event.

The Double 100 is open to regular and occasional cyclists with feeding stations along the route.

To register for the June 23 event, visit http://www.kssairambulance.org.uk. For more details, call Julie Clare on 01622 833833 or email juliec@kssairambulance.org.uk.

Grow a beard to help orang-utans

Comedian Bill Bailey is fronting am April beard-growing campaign to raise awareness and funds for critically endangered orang-utans in Indonesia.

The hairy funnyman is promoting the Sumatran Orangutan Society's (SOS) campaign, which calls on people around the world to show solidarity with the rare apes by growing a beard during April.

He said: 'Help orang-utans this Ape-ril! We're apes too, so go wild and grow a beard - by raising awareness, and vital funds, we can make a real and lasting impact on the survival of orangutans. And that's got to be worth a bit of an itchy chin.'

'We share 96.4% of our DNA with orang-utans - some of us, perhaps, a little more...I've been told I look like a man of the forest.'

Bill, who is a patron of the charity, added: 'Sumatran orang-utans are on the edge of extinction, but SOS are working hard to turn this around - they deserve your support."

Women and children can also take part in the campaign by wearing a false beard for a day, week, or even the whole month. There will be prizes for the best photos sent in to the campaign's Hairy Hall of Fame online gallery.

Helen Buckland, director of SOS, said: 'SOS supports frontline conservation projects in Sumatra, and campaigns against the destruction of the rainforests. The funds raised during Ape-ril will help us keep working to protect orang-utans, their forests and their future.'

Visit the official Ape-ril website at http://www.Ape-ril.org to register.

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