Social isolation and loneliness in people aged 55 and over in Milton Keynes: developing an action plan

Minocha, Shailey; Holland, Caroline; McNulty, Catherine; Banks, Duncan and Palmer, Jane (2016). Social isolation and loneliness in people aged 55 and over in Milton Keynes: developing an action plan. In: Tackling Loneliness And Social Isolation Workshop, Ageing Well and Living Well, Milton Keynes Health and Wellbeing Board, 27 Apr 2016, Civic Offices, Milton Keynes Council, Milton Keynes, UK.


In this workshop, we outlined the conditions that lead to social isolation and loneliness among older people (55 years and above) in Milton Keynes, and recommended possible strategies and solutions to prevent and mitigate isolation. The findings are based on the Milton Keynes Council-commissioned report The research involved a review of academic and policy literature on social isolation and loneliness, and an information gathering exercise that included expert workshops, individual and group interviews, and site visits.

The general risk factors that affect Milton Keynes residents include: low income, low literacy, poor health and disability, losses and bereavement, family, social and neighbourhood change, unemployment or redundancy, and aspects of the built environment and infrastructure. Specific additional challenges for Milton Keynes include: rapidly ageing population (from a low base); the pace of development of Milton Keynes and neighbourhood changes; structural elements including the design of and balance between the city centre, housing estates, and satellite villages; community diversity from deprived to affluent areas; a diverse and growing population of older people from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups; and the crucial on-going transport issues.

We discussed services to alleviate social isolation and which cater to different kinds of needs, including one-to-one services (e.g. visits by community home visitors, regular phone conversations, walking ‘partner’ – e.g. after the bereavement of a pet), group services (e.g. lunch clubs, coffee mornings, Men in sheds, knitting club, walking groups, local history society), and wider social activities (e.g. capturing sporting memories or reminiscing). We identified a need for continuity of several of these services, and that new services should be developed to bridge gaps in provision.

We recommended that Milton Keynes Council should consider: paying attention to events in the lives of older people, designing a variety of services for different age groups, life stages and health (55+, 65+, 75+, 85+, …), inter-generational initiatives, being gender-aware, focussing on the quality rather than the quantity and recognising that families play a key role. We suggested factors for successful service design: developing services that are co-designed and led by older people, council-provided framework for delivery of the services (e.g. ‘neighbourhood watch’ in West Bletchley), developing volunteering capacity within communities and training for the volunteers (e.g. by Age UK Milton Keynes).

Further, we suggested that it is important to know the social and economic impact of the service and, therefore, evaluation should be integral when the service is being designed and delivered. We emphasised that there is a need for a ‘simple’ and low cost evaluation toolkit: e.g. well-being questionnaire or workshops to determine the reach and impact of the service. This evaluation will feed into the improvement of the service and possibly more funding to grow and sustain the service.

We listed three key messages from our research: co-designing services with older people that match with their requirements; evaluation should be integral when the service is being designed and delivered and imparting digital skills to people aged over 55 years ( which would influence and possibly improve their interactions with the local government, help in cultivation of their interests, and facilitate social interactions.

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