The negative impacts of eating alone

Hi everyone, Jack here! Hope all is well.

Last week on our social media platforms we shared a very topical article. The article focused on the specific concern of eating alone among the elderly and its negative health consequences.  As we all know, eating for many of us is one of the most basic of human social interactions; sharing a meal can be a source of bonding, and an opportunity to discuss our days, whether good or bad. However, when it comes to the ageing population, they are often faced with a period of great change; for example, the likes of divorce and bereavement are common. Therefore, there is often nobody for them to share meals with, or to help them cook if they need assistance. In fact, an estimated 1 in 6 over 70s eat alone daily (Source: Huffington Post).

The truth about eating alone

What is more, many elderly individuals experience a deteriorating sense of appetite and reduced ability in their cooking skills. As a result, a lot skip meals, or replace them for junk/snack foods of poor nutritional value. In fact, over 700,000 individuals over 70 have admitted to skipping meals at least 7 or more times a week! (Source: Huffington Post).

Consequently, there is an arguable epidemic of malnutrition among the older population. Such malnutrition is accompanied by allied health problems such as brittle bones, and a weakened immune system. Worryingly, weight loss among the elderly is often taken for granted as a common feature of the ageing process; however, more commonly it could be a sign of the aforementioned malnutrition resulting from loneliness. It is thus a cause for intervention.

 Urge for action

There has been a call from the UK government to place more of an effort on stepping in and accompanying those elderly individuals who you feel may be alone and struggling to achieve a balanced meal. Moreover, Sam Dick, Director of ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ concurs by adding that, “eating together is one of the best ways to connect, which is vital for health and wellbeing.”

How we hope to help

Taking all of the above on board, here at Cyril Flint Befrienders we are taking our own stance and aim in the coming months to run a monthly dinner club event. This provides the opportunity for some of our befriendees and their volunteer befrienders to come together and share a hot meal in a social setting. It also subsequently allows for everyone to possibly bond over similar situations, or any hobbies they may have in common.

How you can get involved

The main thing to take away from all this is that loneliness and social isolation, despite being a naturally sad occurrence in our society, can also be a killer when it comes to the older generation. The effect of both on one’s health is thought to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Source: Cambridge University). It is important therefore that we continue to do the work we do to help combat these issues. This can only happen with sufficient funds however. If you feel you are up for a challenge, or having some time to offer, why not fund raise in some way to support the charity?

If you are interested, or have any ideas for an event you would like to hold but feel you need some support, then feel free to contact my colleague Sam (Fundraising Coordinator) at: [email protected].

Until next time, stay safe and keep an eye out for the most vulnerable in your local area,

Jack.

 

Sources:

https://blog.highgateseniorliving.com/nutrition-for-seniors-table-for-1-the-dangers-of-dining-alone

https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/meals-for-one-how-eating-alone-affects-the-health-of-the-elderly

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/one-in-five-elderly-people-eat-most-meals-alone_uk_5bc9eb93e4b0a8f17eebc1dc?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAAUIZFi9VV-2fAb3OfBXHTBxiv0QqXqd-VNmTrx36AUsDh6TmTxUjABMbwNjSnwRbos-yd7PvqDECH_Z0aAIdbAzPpDFOWkgtEmNAHufE9tg1WGUp_QgA_-vYmBPNEehrZ8vaWs0NtdlZ2V1P6uAm1QvxXzk3iC7wMZgyddd_OaA

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/1000975/one-million-pensioners-summer-eating-every-meal-alone

https://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/eating-alone-becoming-more-common-and-its-problem

Escaping into a great story

Escaping into a great story…

Today World Book Day celebrates its 22nd Anniversary and has become a firm favourite in schools throughout the country. This celebration encouraged reading and sharing stories together. The day was started by its namesake charity, to try to ensure that all children had the opportunity to own their own boo. And indeed it seems to be achieving its mission!

It is also a reminder to us all about the importance of reading and the emotion it can bring. There is a special joy to reading a really good book and a great enthusiasm in recommending it to others.

I know I’m not alone in having books that hold nostalgia throughout my life to date; be that listening to the adventures of Hairy Maclairy as a small child at bed time, to the wonderful warm feeling that finishing many a Roald Dahl book can leave you with, when the good characters triumph. I also enjoyed a short spate of autobiographies of an eclectic mix of people in the public spotlight (because as a teenager you think everyone’s life must be better than your own!). I also enjoyed a competitive reading session with my adult siblings, as we raced to finish the Harry Potter collection first!

The role books can play

Books can play such an important role in our life. Educating us, helping us to relate to others, engaging us and challenging us. Reading can also present an escapism for many lonely people; a chance to escape a sad or unfulfilling reality and to be emerged in a tale, of excitement, adventure, romance or friendship. When you find a book you really enjoy you can be immersed in the story for hours. You find yourself desperately turning the pages to find out what happens next whilst not wanting a great story to come to an end! When reading, we really can find ourselves vicariously living our lives through others. It really is quite a magical and unique experience.

World Book Day

This World Book Day I would encourage you to share a story with anyone in your life whom you may think is feeling a little lonely. Share a story about you, your day, and your life or even recommend a book to them! This could offer a chance of escapism and something that will entertain and amuse them.

Friendship can make all the difference

Loneliness is often a subject people are afraid to discuss. This could be for several reasons, they could feel embarrassed, ashamed or concerned about making a fuss. People are sometimes concerned that they will be judged, as loneliness is subjective, it cannot be measured in a scientific manner, it is judged by each individuals need for social interaction and conversation; if we feel we do not have as much as we would like, we consider ourselves lonely. Some people require little interaction with others and are very content with their own company, whereas other people require a much higher level of interaction with others to ward off loneliness. There is no right or wrong, but as a community, we should encourage people to speak up if they feel lonely.

Public campaigns have helped to raise awareness that loneliness is not just upsetting, it actually has an impact on a person’s physical and mental health; research has linked loneliness to depression and some studies suggest that lonely people are twice as likely to develop Dementia as someone who is not lonely. Therefore we recognise that loneliness is a real concern and needs to be addressed before it impacts on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

At Cyril Flint Befrienders, we aim to combat loneliness and social isolation in elderly people in Greater Manchester through friendship; we match lonely older people up with a volunteer befriender who visits them for an hour a week. Although an hour may not seem much, older people who access our service tell us that having a befriender makes a huge difference to their mood;

Dorothy ‘After losing my husband I felt very down and lonely but having a befriender has helped lift my mood. Some days I can feel a bit low but I am always cheered up when Caroline rings and when she comes to see me.’

Donald ‘Having a befriender is the best thing that could’ve happened to me. You sent me an angel. I’m not alone anymore, I have a friend and it’s really changed my life. I still have sad days but I always have Sarah’s visits to look forward to.’

Eileen ‘I spend a lot of time on my own, so having someone to talk to is wonderful, that’s what I miss. It’s nice having someone to talk to, it makes you feel better about yourself.’

We’re proud of the friendships we’ve been able to create at Cyril Flint Befrienders and want to thank our volunteers for their commitment and work they are doing to combat loneliness and the health risks it can lead to.

If you know a lonely older person who could benefit from a new friend, please visit our website: www.cyrilflint.org or call us 0161 942 9465.

Request for a friend1

Summer hydration tips for the elderly

Summer weather photo

Volunteering Makes You Feel Good!

Befriending undoubtedly brings lots of benefits to the person who receives a volunteer visits. Increased confidence, mood and wellbeing are all areas improved by receiving a befriending visit. However did you know being a Volunteer also brings with it a bunch of positive effects on your health too?

Mental Health

A recent report by the Citizens Advice Bureau suggests that four in five volunteers believe their volunteering activity has had a positive effect on their health. The report indicates that volunteering boosts self-esteem, employability and health – especially mental health. It suggests those who gave up their time to help others were less likely to suffer from depression plus they had higher levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing.

Cyril Flint Volunteers often talk about the feel good factor of “giving something back” to their communities, or supporting an organization or charity that has supported someone close to them. Volunteering can also be used to gain work experience or to widen social circles. All of which can have a positive effect on Mental Health.

But we were surprised to learn that volunteering has positive implications that go beyond mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.

Physical Health Benefits:

  • It reduces stress
    Doing things for others helps maintain good health.Positive emotions reduce stress and boost our immune system, and in turn can protect us against disease.
  • It helps get rid of negative feelings
    Negative emotions such as anger, aggression or hostility have a negative impact on our mind and body. Engaging in random acts of kindness can help decrease these feelings and stabilise our overall health.

Volunteering helps you live longer – really!

Whilst it’s not too hard to see the link between helping others and gaining a sense of connection, pride, and perspective, did you know that it can also help you live longer?

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the south of England analyzed data from 40 published studies and found evidence that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than their peers who do not volunteer. The study also found that volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being.

Dr. Suzanne Richards, who lead the team of researchers at Exeter, said that more testing on this subject is necessary in order to find out whether or not biological, cultural, and social factors are associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place, as they are often associated with better health.

“The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them,” she said.

So there you have it – the benefits of volunteering are vast and varied. Give something back and improve your health today – visit the “Volunteer” section of our website today to find out more!