As many as 56 per cent of older people have never talked to anyone about being lonely and isolated, according to a new survey.
The majority say any close friends or family would be surprised or even astonished to hear of their loneliness, research by the over-50s social networking site Gransnet found.
Almost all of those asked, 93 per cent, admitted it is possible to feel lonely even with a spouse or family.
As many as 82 per cent agree that talking about feelings of loneliness is much easier when they are online and anonymous.
As part of the Commission’s spotlight on older people, nine organisations – Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, British Red Cross, Campaign to End Loneliness, Eden Project Communities, Gransnet, Independent Age, Royal Voluntary Service and The Silver Line – are working to raise public awareness of loneliness and encourage everyone to act to tackle it.
Loneliness is a silent epidemic across the UK
Cross-party co-chairs of the Commission, MPs Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy, said: “Loneliness is a silent epidemic across the UK. We all need to act and encourage older people to freely talk about their loneliness.
“Everyone can play a part to ending loneliness among older people in their communities by simply starting a conversation with those around you.
“Building awareness of loneliness by being the ‘eyes on the ground’ to spot it amongst older customers, patients, friends, relatives and neighbours, and refer onto people who can help are all interventions that could make a real impact to a lonely older person’s life.”
Age UK research found that 1.2million older people are chronically lonely and half a million over-60s usually spend every day alone.
Under the slogan ‘Start a Conversation’, the Commission wants to mobilise the public to help themselves and others around them – educating people on how they can become part of the solution – whether through talking to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just making time for people they meet.
Laura Alcock-Ferguson of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “Loneliness is a serious public health issue, and dealing with it will take the strain off the NHS care services.”