Devon

Lottery cash bid to tackle Plymouth loneliness 'epidemic'

Exercise class for the elderly
Image caption Loneliness can be as physically harmful as obesity or lack of exercise, a report for Age UK has stated

A charity is bidding for up to £6m to tackle what it describes as an "epidemic of loneliness and isolation" among older people in Plymouth, Devon.

If successful, the Big Lottery Fund money will be used to pay for affordable transport, new social groups and activities to help older people get more involved in the community.

Plymouth is one of 32 local authority areas bidding for the cash.

Ageing Better Plymouth project is being run by Plymouth Guild.

According to a report by Age UK, about 10% of the over 65s in the UK - more than 900,00 - are lonely most of the time and the number at risk of loneliness is much larger.

'Creative ways'

George Plenderleith, from Plymouth Guild, said combating loneliness and social isolation could help to prevent depression and anxiety, thereby reducing the pressure on health services.

Mary Norsworthy, 66, from the Mannamead area of the city said she had to give up her social life to become a full-time carer for her 83-year-old husband Ivor, who has advanced dementia.

"It just stopped - it came to a halt and just stopped dead," Mrs Norsworthy told BBC Radio Devon's Julie Fisher.

"Life ended and I became a full-time carer, 24 hours a day.

"I used to end up crying with frustration - and sometimes I would wake up crying because I knew the day was going to be like it was going to be."

Mr Plenderleith said dealing with such a major issue could not simply be left to Plymouth City Council.

"We've got to look at creative ways of doing things - it's about charities and volunteers and it's about trying to create, dare I say, a more cohesive society that older people are more engaged in," he added.

To prepare its funding bid, Plymouth Guild has been working with groups such as Age UK, the Alzheimer's Society, British Red Cross and Plymouth University of the 3rd Age.

Ageing Better Plymouth's vision and strategy will be submitted in April and in July, the Big Lottery Fund will select 15 - 20 partnerships.

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