A series of workshops organized by the Commissioner for Older People, which sought the views of older people across Northern Ireland on the topic of loneliness and social isolation, concluded in Derry/L’derry last week.

Around 150 older people took part in a total of three workshops in Belfast, Enniskillen and Derry/L’derry, where they gave their views on loneliness and social isolation; what they believed were the main contributing factors and what could be done to help combat it.

Speaking about the project, the Commissioner said: “Loneliness and social isolation are two of the most significant issues for older people in Northern Ireland.

“There are a variety of factors which contribute to a person’s loneliness. My visit to Derry last week marked the third in my series of workshops across Northern Ireland on this important issue and we’re really starting to see trends appearing. Issues around a lack of transport or finances to get out and about; extended family members moving away or indeed the feeling that families are too busy to keep in touch are all recurrent themes.

“Another common viewpoint is around the use of technology and social media. While it can be a useful tool, many older people are reporting that they feel that texting and social media is replacing human contact and face to face interaction which is so important when it comes to combating feelings of loneliness.

“As part of my engagement strategy, it’s important to gain a wide range of views from older people across Northern Ireland on this issue. As our ageing population continues to grow, we need to work together to create a positive society for older people to live and be part of.

“The views we have collated today and from previous workshops are invaluable and we had some great suggestions on what can be done, whether that be suggestions for government, local councils or indeed society as a whole. I look forward to reviewing the feedback in more detail and reporting back soon.”