Feb 10 2011 Posted: 00:00 GMT
A leading researcher at NUI Galway has helped to shape a new campaign that aspires to end loneliness amongst older people in Britain. The Campaign to End Loneliness, which was launched recently, aims to help people create and maintain personal connections in older age. Professor Thomas Scharf, Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, NUI Galway, has been involved since the early stages of the Campaign. Working with some of Europe's leading researchers in the field of loneliness, Professor Scharf has helped to synthesise existing research relating to loneliness in later life. His main focus is on the ways in which loneliness relates to other forms of disadvantage that can affect people as they age, most notably low incomes and a lack of access to services. The Campaign aims to raise awareness of loneliness among older people, and build an evidence base of research into the area. A further component of the Campaign is to engage in actions to reduce and eradicate loneliness into the future and to inspire a vision for later life without loneliness for all older citizens. Professor Scharf says: "While the overwhelming majority of older people in countries like Ireland and Britain are not greatly affected by loneliness, it is important that society supports people whose life quality is severely reduced by feelings of loneliness. The Campaign to End Loneliness aims to provide some practical help and advice for people affected by loneliness in Britain. In time, I hope that this campaign might also extend to Ireland, where loneliness is an equally important issue." Professor Scharf continues: "Loneliness affects around one in ten older people, seriously limiting the quality of later life. Recent research even suggests that loneliness may be a greater threat to people's health than smoking." Information about the Campaign to End Loneliness, including details of key research findings on loneliness in later life, are available at: http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org.uk/index.php.