Age UK Leicestershire and Rutland will be putting out a “Kitchener-style call” to residents urging them to befriend isolated elderly in their neighbourhoods.
At a special conference on September 4 the charity will aim to outline the county’s “desperate” need for befrienders because of rising numbers of older people living alone.
Speakers invited to the conference, sponsored by Oakham Town Council, include Marie Ashby of BBC’s Inside out Programme, Rutland MP Alan Duncan (Con) and Pauline Sheppard, a befriender of 18 years.
Age UK’s Oakham coordinator Lisa Jackson said: “The event is basically like Kitchener’s call - not to arms but to volunteering.
“The statistics are frightening and reveal that as the population in Rutland is ageing steadily more and more elderly and vulnerable people are choosing to remain in their own homes rather than go into care.
“This can lead to social isolation and severe loneliness. “We hope to raise awareness and get more volunteers.”
The Kitchener reference is to a 1914 war recruitment poster with a picture of the British Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener above the words “NEEDS YOU”.
By 2015 one in five of Rutland’s elderly will be living alone and be isolated.
The 2011 census predicts a 70 per cent rise in the over 65 group from 2013 to 2030 in Rutland and a 40 per cent increase in the over 75 group.
Past research shows social isolation increases the risk of heart disease and dementia.
On Tuesday, the first ever national survey of social isolation was published by the UK’s Health and Social Care Information Centre. It measures social contact in adult users of social care and will enable councils to determine the scale of the problem in their area and find solutions.
It showed that 64.2 per cent of those surveyed in Rutland said they ‘did not have as much social contact as they would like’, compared with Lincolnshire’s 44.9 per cent.
Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: “In our busy lives it can be easy to forget that thousands of people often go for days without speaking or even having contact with anyone at all. But we can all play our part in making sure that those who are isolated feel part of the community again. Volunteering can make a real difference to people’s lives.”
The number of referrals from doctors and social services in Rutland was increasing weekly, Mrs Jackson said.
“We desperately need more volunteers: there is a critical need for the service.”
Befriending in Rutland will be held at Victoria Hall, Oakham, on September 4 from 2.30pm to 4.30pm. For more information call 01572 770324.