MP’s plea for city’s help to beat OAPs’ crippling loneliness

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PORTSMOUTH needs to unite to tackle the ‘crippling epidemic’ of loneliness sweeping through the city’s older population, an MP has urged.

Flick Drummond, Portsmouth South MP, has today called on the city to rally and help fulfil a bold plan to create the island’s first elderly persons’ hub.

The Tory said she has been staggered by the number of pensioners left isolated in their homes. And she said despite the support of charities like Age UK, the city did not have enough services on offer to counter the problem, which she claimed could be affecting thousands of Portsmouth pensioners.

Mrs Drummond said: ‘Loneliness is a huge issue in Portsmouth. Before the election I did a survey to find out how big a problem it was among the elderly.

‘I had between 2,000 and 3,000 replies from pensioners. About 85 per cent said there was a real issue with loneliness. This is something I desperately want to change.’

Her ambition is to create a new hub, inspired by senior citizen centres in the United States.

The aim is to build a site which would be open seven days a week, offering a library, gym, cafe and meeting rooms where social clubs can take place day and night – something Mrs Drummond said was not available currently.

But she said she needs the help of people and organisations to make her dream into a reality. This could be through providing a suitable space, to supporting funding bids.

Mrs Drummond, who lived in the US at the time of the 9/11 terror attack in 2001, said: ‘The senior centres set up in America are absolutely fantastic. For people who are lonely it gives them something to go to.

‘There’s a library, a meeting room, a cafe and gym. So you know that if you turn up there will be other people there,’

Portsmouth already has a number of organisations offering help to the elderly. Among them is Age UK’s Bradbury Centre, in Kingston Road, Buckland.

One lonely 74-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said her life had been turned around by services like the Bradbury Centre.

The widow – who lives alone in her council flat – said: ‘I was feeling lonely and very unhappy with how my life was, with nothing going on, it was almost as though I didn’t exist.

‘Age UK Portsmouth wrapped their arms around me from the moment I walked in the door. Coming here has literally brought me back to life.’

Mrs Drummond’s appeal comes on the back of her inaugural Older Persons’ Fair in Portsmouth earlier this year.

She said the fair – held at Portsmouth Cathedral – saw hundreds of visitors through the door.

She added: ‘There was an 86-year-old who had not spoken to anyone for a week. It was desperately sad.

‘The trouble is that people with families may have moved away or they’re working all the time and don’t have a lot of time for the older generation.’

Those who can support the bid are being urged to contact her constituency office by calling (023) 9229 2690 or emailing flick.drummond.mp@parliament.uk

CHARITY SAYS LONELINESS IS A PROBLEM IN PORTSMOUTH

CHARITY Age UK is backing Flick Drummond’s plan.

Age UK Portsmouth said its staff and volunteers are often told that they are the only people the person sees all week.

A statement said: ‘Many older people do not want to ask for help; pride in coping and not wanting to be seen as a burden to others could lead to potential crisis. Therefore, the services we provide such as our Living Well, Befriending and Help Around the Home Services particularly reach out to those who are not seen as “in need” by wider support networks, and are playing a key role in improving wellbeing and loneliness.’