Plaid Cymru AM Dai Lloyd is calling on the Welsh Government to step up its efforts to tackle loneliness and isolation in Wales.
The Welsh Government is set to publish its Strategy on Loneliness and Isolation in 2019, but Dr. Lloyd has stated that this date needs to be brought forward.
He also called for a national debate on the issue of loneliness and isolation within our society, and the role that we can all play in tackling it.
The Assembly’s Health Social Care and Sport Committee, which Dr. Lloyd chairs, recently completed an inquiry into the issue highlighting the scale of the problem in Wales, and the need for Government action.
Age Cymru state that 75,000 older people in Wales “always or often” feel lonely.
Dr. Lloyd said: “We know that loneliness and isolation affects people of all ages, but particularly within our older population, and more so for people at this time of year. With an ageing population, we are finding that it is becoming an increasing problem.
“As individuals we need to be having discussions with friends, family and colleagues on how we can help tackle this issue.
“Some of the experiences that have been relayed are particularly upsetting – people in their 70s and 80s suffering desperate loneliness.
“We know that being lonely can increase the risk of high blood-pressure and cardiovascular disease, and there is a clear link between loneliness, depression and suicide.”
About 20% of Wales’ more than three million people are aged over 65, according to the latest official figures.
Dr. Lloyd added: “In terms of tackling this issue, there is much that we can do as individuals, within our villages, towns and cities – reaching out to people and involve them and offer friendship, but there is also a key role for the Welsh Government, local authorities and the voluntary sector in improving the situation.
“The Welsh Government role here is vital, in developing a coherent national strategy, and setting out the expectation that it has of a range of public sector bodies in tackling the problem.
“The Assembly’s Health Committee has heard of a range of ideas which can help tackle the issue, including creating accessible places to meet, and ensuring that local authorities, Housing Associations, transport and health sectors deliver practical and emotional support.
“The reality is that we have tens of thousands of people, at this very moment in time feeling terribly lonely and isolated. This is why it is important for that publication date to be brought forward.”