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09 May 2022

Housing associations play a key role in preventing loneliness

Housing associations play a key role in preventing loneliness

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May 2022) is loneliness - a critical issue that can affect people from all walks of life, at different times and in different ways.

Some groups are more susceptible than others to loneliness. It is often associated with older people - 14.5% of people aged between 65–79 and 29.2% of people over 80 report being lonely some or all of the time. In addition, research from the ONS has found that adults who are single or widowed are at higher risk of experiencing loneliness, as are those who rent rather than own their home.

However, research conducted by educational charity Demos found that retirement housing residents are half as likely to report feeling lonely as their counterparts of the same age in the general population.

To help prevent social isolation and loneliness, housing associations across Wales offer a range of supported accommodation schemes and other services that help people to live independently, while providing them with opportunities to build connections and friendships. These include sheltered housing, independent living, extra care and (more recently) close care schemes. Research into housing schemes for older people (the DICE study) in particular suggests that this kind of housing with care and support plays an important role in alleviating loneliness in later life.

One housing association which offers this type of support to alleviate loneliness - and support tenants with other mental health and wellbeing issues - is ClwydAlyn. In partnership with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, it runs an iCAN Community Hub in Rhyl, North Wales.

Staff at the hub support and guide people of all ages to prevent the deterioration of their mental well-being, and to alleviate social distress and crisis, in a safe community setting. Working with local GPs, mental health teams, third sector partners, housing officers, and even vets and hairdressers, the help they offer depends on the needs of the individual who visits but is all aimed at ensuring that housing association tenants do not feel isolated or lonely when struggling with any part of their life.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing mental health or wellbeing issues, and would like to access support, the NHS in Wales promotes different free services that you can use. Visit 111.nhs.uk for more information.