Councillor's concern that lonely older people ‘pay for company’

Craven Herald: Councillor's concern that lonely older people ‘pay for company’ Councillor's concern that lonely older people ‘pay for company’

Some lonely older people in Craven donated money in exchange for company, a councillor claimed.

Coun Pat Fairbank (Cons) said there were people in her Aire Valley ward who made donations to a religious group so its representatives would share a cup of tea with them.

She said depression caused by loneliness and isolation was a real problem among the older generation and it was going to get worse because of poor public transport and young people leaving village communities.

“I think to pay someone to have a cup of tea with you is disgusting, and I think a lot of this is because younger ones are leaving the villages,” she said. “Older people are going to bed at night hoping they won’t wake up in the morning.”

Coun Fairbank said public transport was the major reason for isolation for both older people and younger people, who were forced to move away.

“The elderly just can’t get to events, like the Yuletide event in Skipton. They don’t like to admit it, because they are proud, but they are isolated and depressed.”

She asked North Yorkshire’s director of public heath, Dr Lincoln Sergeant, what could be done to tackle the problem.

Dr Sargeant, who was at Craven District Council to present his first annual heath report, agreed it was a problem and described his own experiences as a child helping older people in his own community.

He said there were efforts being made by the county council’s champion for older people, Coun Shelagh Marshall, and that money had been ring-fenced to tackle isolation in communities, but he added: “I grew up in a different culture in a village where I helped older people with letter writing, it was something that was expected and I just did.”

He added there was a danger in stereotyping older people as burdens and that loneliness and isolation did not always lead to depression.

But he added: “Dementia is a challenge, but some estimate that depression is by far the greatest problem for older people.”

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