New guidance to help older people maintain their independence and mental wellbeing has been issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
The guideline, designed to help reduce isolation and related mental health problems in people over the age of 65, focusses on the use of activities to encourage social interaction.
”There are many factors which contribute to someone’s ability to remain independent and maintain their mental wellbeing.This guideline includes advice on putting this into practice”
It also includes recommendations to help healthcare professionals working with older people to identify those most at risk.
NICE recommends the use of a range of group-based activities such as singing programmes, exercise schemes and intergenerational tasks such as helping with reading in schools.
Volunteering and one-to-one activities including home visiting or befriending programmes are also advised in the guideline, called Older people: independence and mental wellbeing.
The guideline – which is aimed primarily at local authorities, managers, and public health practitioners – also states staff should be able to identify people most at risk of a decline in their independence and mental wellbeing.
These include older people whose partner has died in the past two years, carers, those who are recently divorced or separated, and if someone has a low income.
“It’s encouraging to see that NICE now recognises loneliness as a serious public health issue”
Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “Ageing affects everyone differently. There are many factors which contribute to someone’s ability to remain independent, avoid loneliness and maintain their mental wellbeing.
”This new guideline includes advice on putting this into practice, for example by looking at what is already in local areas and how it can be improved – are there any transport difficulties, do the older people know there are activities and services available? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to promote and protect the mental wellbeing and independence of older people.”
Kellie Payne, learning and research manager at the charity Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “It’s encouraging to see that NICE now recognises loneliness as a serious public health issue, which has an impact on mortality, and physical and mental health in later life.
“This is a complex issue, which demands a strategic approach to ensure barriers to making connections are tackled and the interventions to reduce loneliness are effective.”
“We support NICE in setting out this guidance, which echoes the campaign’s recommendations for adult social care, clinical commissioning groups and public health teams,” she added.