A NEW study study suggests that people of all ages suffer from loneliness in all of the provinces of Andalucia, but that it worsens with age, especially for those who are over the age of 55
The study, conducted by the regional Ministry of Equality, interviewed 2,000 people, over the age of 55, from all over the region.
Its findings showed that loneliness strikes hardest people who are less educated and, more obviously, those who live alone. The findings also showed that eastern Andalucia, Malaga, Almeria, Granada and Jaen, have a higher percentage of loneliness than the western side, which is Cadiz, Sevilla, Cordoba and Huelva.
A local charity aiming to combat this is, Age Concern, based in Fuengirola and Mijas, which works to reduce, ‘isolation and loneliness,’ for the English speaking community, by providing ‘advice, support, help and friendship,’ for the ‘over 50’s English speaking community.’
A spokesperson for the charity, Steven Marshall, said the results from the study are, ‘not surprising,’ and that the percentage of lonely people, ‘is probably a lot higher, but people from that generation keep things close to their chest.’
The study stated the most severely affected are those who are over the age of 80, which is in accordance with Age Concern’s main clientele who are 70 and over. The reason why Marshall believes this age group of expats suffer the most, is because they don’t ‘bother to learn the language when they move here’ so now they struggle to interact with the people around them.
To try tackle the problem the Ministry is launching, the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Plan for Older Persons in Andalusia,’ which will, ‘order all public policies aimed at promoting the well-being of the elderly,’ according to Rocio Ruiz, the Minister for Equality and Social Policies and Conciliation for Andalucia.
Age Concern provides a hotline and drop in sessions for all English speaking people who suffer with loneliness or isolation on the Costa del Sol, ‘as long as you are English speaking you are more than welcome,’ with their clientele coming from, ‘Ireland, England, Scotland, France and Germany.’
During lockdown, Marshall said their number of calls increased and they ‘set up buddy calls with a team of volunteers,’ to help with the influx. The Ministry also has their own ‘Telecare Service’ which received over 2 million calls during the pandemic, with ‘most of them to alleviate situations of loneliness,’ said Ruiz.
The study shows older people are more likely to suffer from loneliness and isolation as they tend to have lost their network of friends and have a lower group of contacts.
The majority of Age Concern’s clientele are women who ‘are ladies that have been widowed,’ but the study actually suggested that men are more at risk of isolation as they tend to have less social and friendship networks once they reach 55 and over, compared to women who seem to be better at networking. Marshall suggested this might be because that generation has a lot of ‘pride, which stops them from asking for help or assistance.’
Another reason for why the elderly suffer more, according to the General Director of the Elderly and Non-Contributory Pensions of the Andalusian Government, Juan Carlos Duran, is that they, ‘have less skills then the younger population and struggle with new technologies,’ such as those that everyone relied on to keep in touch during the pandemic.