A councillor in North Yorkshire County Council has warned that cost cutting has left older people without transport and at risk of loneliness.british-tourist-bus-coloring-page (1)

Shelagh Marshall, who is also Chairman of Future Years, wants to get bus funding for older people recognised as a serious issue. She is undertaking a survey of older people around the country to present to the incoming Government next year.

It may be more serious than she realises. Studies have shown that social isolation is associated with doubling the risk of developing dementia.

Researchers at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago found that lonely individuals may be twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in late life as those who are not lonely. The study was published the journal, Archives of General Psychiatry.

Rush University’s Dr Robert Wilson and colleagues analysed the association between loneliness and Alzheimer’s disease in 823 older adults over a four-year period.

Participants underwent evaluations that included questionnaires to assess loneliness, classifications of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and testing of their thinking, learning and memory abilities. Loneliness was measured on a scale of one to five, with higher scores indicating more loneliness.

“Humans are very social creatures. We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health,” says Dr Wilson “The results of our study suggest that people who are persistently lonely may be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of age-related neuropathology.”

The mechanism that links dementia and loneliness is unclear, and Dr Wilson encourages more study to look at how negative emotions cause changes in the brain. “If loneliness is causing changes in the brain, it is quite possible that medications or changes in behaviour could lessen the effects of these negative emotions and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

Cutting buses and passes may be saving money now for the Council, but they could be laying up significantly higher costs in the future for funding care for people with dementia.  Particularly with all the miles carers will have to drive along country routes.  May be a better idea not to slash them in the first place.

Read the report here: http://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/loneliness-and-alzheimers

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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