Loneliness takes centre stage – Age Action Alliance

Age Action Alliance recently published that “loneliness has a similar impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day” and that “the Campaign to End Loneliness’s report Safeguarding the Convoy demonstrates that around 6 to 13% of older people feel lonely often or always”.

I wonder what the figures are for people speaking English as a second language, with communication difficulties stemming from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s for example?


Speaking as an ex-care worker (13 years prior), I feel there’s a big responsibility for care workers to provide personable and culturally sensitive communication but often care workers are challenged with their own lack of training and skills, meaning relationship building between clients and carers is hit but more often miss.

13 years ago myself and the person I cared for were lucky, we talked a lot together and shared a similar wavelength, in so doing he enlightened me to recognising a lack of service for people with disabilities and we decided to do something positive about it – I recognise this isn’t a standard pathway in providing care.

Our first business was a leisure website helping people make an informed choices to leisure funded through the millennium commission.
Funding paid for focus groups with people attending day services – which is when we embraced working with people with learning disabilities to ensure our information was inclusive of people with physical disabilities, those speaking English as a second language, Deaf communities, people with visual impairments. We absorbed as many perspectives as we could, it was the only way, we felt, that we could design something that met the needs we aimed to provide for.

“…I’ve never seen such genuine consultation with people with learning disabilities before, and was hugely impressed by the way you and Lisa winkled out people’s hopes and wishes” – Derek Hill – parent of a young adult with profound learning disabilities


Along the way we identified other barriers preventing people getting involved, namely confidence with way-finding, the nightmare stories of harrowing journeys and expensive cab rescues after hours waiting in the cold – who would rush to try somewhere new after so many desperate attempts. This led us to create PhotoRoute.com, it took so many years but went on to win a Visit London gold award and was used during the Paralympic Games.
PhotoRoute is a simple toolkit creating step free walking maps in website, print, embeddable and iphone versions, the toolkit overlays pictures on top of digital maps along with easy way finding text and directional arrows.

My former care client and colleague suggests his current carers would find PhotoRoute useful to help them be on time!

PhotoRoute supports Visit England’s inclusive destination program and is now starting to be used by premier football clubs, PhotoRoute works for special leagues and match day visitors.


The other barrier identified was the written language on websites so we developed Word-Bank, an automated jargon buster adding definitions at the point of need within webpages.
Word-Bank won a BBC Innovation Lab award and has been independently proven by the Disability Rights Commission to aid website comprehension by 100%. More recently Word-Bank has been commissioned by NHS England to help with online engagement and compliance with the Equality Duties.

You can see an example by visiting this website: www.northmid.nhs.uk

Word-Bank would be useful to up-skill care workers and support staff on being culturally sensitive to client’s needs, and also to learn health and safety and basic tasks, enabling staff to grow more trusted relationships with clients.

For more information visit ageactionalliance.org/loneliness-takes-centre-stage/ or subscribe to our mailing list.