Chelsea Pensioner, John Riley (86) on combatting loneliness

18th October 2018

According to Government figures released earlier this week, around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month. Three-quarters of GPs have said they see between one and five people a day suffering from loneliness. 

Chelsea Pensioner John Riley lost his wife 3 years ago, which led him down a path to loneliness and social isolation.

“I reached the stage where I wasn’t seeing anybody all week” John tells us, “I was looking at four walls and it was really getting me down.” 

At the Royal Hospital we strive to combat loneliness in older age. Director of Health and Wellbeing, Professor Deborah Sturdy OBE said: “At the Royal Hospital we believe in ‘active ageing.' We have an extensive activity programme that all of our Pensioners can participate in and are supported to do so if needed. We care for a lot of Pensioners (like John) who have suffered the loss of a spouse and as a consequence become very lonely and isolated, and now choose to live with us in a community. New hobbies and staying active within your community are very important for mental health."

John’s way of overcoming his loneliness was to take up a new hobby. “I’ve taken up pottery,” says John, “…it stops you not only being lonely but you’re quite keen to be getting on with it and your life completely turns around when you’ve got yourself a hobby and you’re meeting a lot of other people.”

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