Isolation fears for older people

Population changes could see a dramatic increase in the number of over 75s living alone in the Borders
Population changes could see a dramatic increase in the number of over 75s living alone in the Borders

The number of people over 75 and living alone in the Borders is to increase dramatically in the next 35 years, latest projections show.

The National Records of Scotland figures reveal that, despite this increase, the population of the area in 2037 is expected to be almost exactly the same as 2012 – just under 114,000.

But the population of over-75s is estimated to rise by 95 per cent in that time, to more than 20,000, with almost 9,000 of them living alone, up from 5,000 in 2012.

This has raised concerns about even more elderly people becoming isolated and lonely in their own homes.

Valerie Crookston, Scottish executive for charity Contact the Elderly, said: “Social isolation in older age is already a major issue.

“As a charity which works to help relieve this, we understand the impact living alone has in all areas of older people’s lives.

“It is vitally important to tackle the issues so people can enjoy their later years to the full.”

She added: “Social isolation among older people is an issue for this generation to tackle.

“The next generation will be faced with a far higher proportion of people to care for so now is the time to implement initiatives, solutions and develop a caring mindset in society.”

The charity operates two branches in the Borders for over-75s – in Peebles and Kelso.

Morna O’May, east Scotland development officer for Contact the Elderly, said: “One Sunday afternoon a month, our volunteer drivers enjoy taking their older guests to a volunteer host’s home where they join a small group for tea, talk and companionship.

“The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same and the groups are kept small so that everyone can join in easily and get to know each other properly.

“It’s a simple idea, but one that can make a big difference.”

The population projections also show that the Borders is expected to experience a 17 per cent fall in those under the age of 65 by 2037.

John Swinney MSP, cabinet secretary for finance, told The Southern during his visit to Kelso: “One of Scotland’s strategic challenges is that we must boost our working age population in the years to come.

“Part of that has got to be achieved by creating more vibrant economic conditions that will enable more of our younger generation to actually stay in Scotland and make their futures here in Scotland, rather than going off to other areas to pursue their economic opportunities.”

Mr Swinney added: “There is a challenge, I accept that, but it is not a challenge unique to Scotland.

“The UK will be facing exactly the same challenges of a shift in the population balance to an older population with a smaller working age population, but we’ve got to succeed by encouraging more of our own people to stay here and to attract others to come and make their opportunities here.”