Social Isolation and Loneliness
Social isolation has a marked impact on health and wellbeing, and it is estimated that nationally 5-16% of people 65 years of age or older report loneliness and 12 per cent feel isolated.
In Gateshead in 2011, 34.4% of people 65 years of age or older were living alone, or 12,138 people in total. In fact, there are 8,972 who are living alone and aged 75 or over. The wards with the highest proportion of older people living alone are Bridges, Felling, and Dunston and Teams - all of which are significantly higher than the Gateshead average. However, it should be noted that the numbers of older people living alone in those wards varies significantly because they are relative to the total population of older people. So, for example, whilst Felling ward has more than 600 older people living alone, Dunston and Teams has less than 500, and Bridges has less than 400. The wards with the highest number are Windy Nook and Whitehills, Lobley Hill and Bensham, and Chowdene - all of which have more than 650 older people living alone [Map - Ward pensioners living alone].
In 2016, Age UK used data from the Census 2011 in conjunction with findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to estimate those aged 65+ who are at risk of loneliness. The findings of this research are presented as an interactive map and displayed for each of Gateshead's 126 Lower Layer Super Output Areas.
Although no single indicator can validly measure loneliness and social isolation within communities, a survey of local residents in 2012 asked several questions that relate to social isolation. People 65 years of age or older were more likely to respond positively to these questions than the general population. Only 5% of older people said they did not have friendships and close associations with other people in their local area, compared to 11% for the whole population. Just 5% said they did not regularly stop and talk with people in their local area, compared to 14% for the whole population. A total of 11% would not feel comfortable asking a neighbour for help, compared to 17% of the whole population. Despite this relative positive response from older people, it still suggests that there are a number of potentially vulnerable people without the necessary informal support networks, which may have an impact on their health and social care needs.
During 2017/18 in Gateshead 6,076 people contacted Gateshead Council's social services for help or advice who were not already known to Social Services, a 10% increase on the previous year. 2,450 adults had an assessment of their needs, a 25% decrease on the previous year. 1,875 reviews of existing service users' need were carried out. 95% of people took more control of their own support in the form of a Personal Budget or Direct Payment. 890 older people were looked after in long term residential or nursing care at 31 March 2018. This represents 2.3% of those aged 65 plus.
Predicting Future Vulnerabilities
It is difficult to predict future needs of vulnerable groups. However, the following table estimates and projects forward the number of people aged 65+ with selected conditions/needs which may impact on their physical and mental wellbeing both now and in the future:
Estimated people with selected conditions/needs (Age 65+)
|Moderate or severe learning disabilities||109||139|
|Autistic spectrum disorder||361||488|
|Moderate or severe hearing impairment||16,297||23,192|
 Social Care Institute for Excellence. Preventing loneliness and social isolation among older people, May 2012
 ONS Census 2011 (ONS or Local Health websites)
 Risk of Loneliness Interactive Map, Census 2011 and English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, Age UK (Age UK website)
 Cornwell EY, Waite LJ. Measuring Social Isolation Among Older Adults Using Multiple Indicators From the NSHAP Study. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009;64B - Supply 1:i38-i46
 Gateshead Residents Survey, Gateshead Council/Ipsos Mori, 2012
 Gateshead Council, Carefirst & Short and Long Term Return (SALT) 2017/18
 Population with selected conditions/needs, POPPI, 2014 based population projections for 2017 estimate (POPPI website)