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JDC Asks...

Thu 24 May 2018

Loneliness and being alone don’t always means the same thing. So say’s the musician Roddy Frame who used to be my neighbour in Glasgow. Thirty years ago, I moved from Glasgow to the bonny Black Isle in the Highlands of Scotland. I live in splendid isolation in a traditional highland cottage with a tin roof and 178 hectares of land.  I have had times of loneliness and loss. Getting used to my dementia diagnosis was a lonely time but my family and friends helped me through. I’m not the same person as the person who got the dementia. Accepting the emotionality of life and dementia can give you that spur to finding your own solutions. For me it’s going to choir, being part of a walking group, maintaining friendships and family ties, connecting with other people with dementia. I love my Facebook and Twitter - it keeps me in touch with people and places.  The most important solution for me, though, is the practice of mindfulness. I give it priority in my life. It gives me an inner resource to look at the beauty in life. Mindfulness gives me stillness, peace, it opens up spaces that lets other people in, it lets me share my emotional life with others. I’m alone but I don’t feel lonely. 

Nancy Macadam is a member of the Scottish Alumni and Scottish Dementia Working Group



One person develops dementia every three minutes in the UK and almost everyone knows someone whose life has been affected. Yet too many people face the condition alone without adequate support. With two-thirds of people with dementia living in their local community, and many of them living alone, it is vital that the right support is available to enable them to live well with the condition. Dementia can be an extremely isolating experience. One survey we did found that nearly two-thirds of people with dementia who lived on their own reported feeling lonely and a third said they had lost friends. But initiatives like Dementia Friends are both helping to create a world in which everyone affected is empowered to live a life they want and no one has to face dementia alone.  Nearly two million people have become Dementia Friends and more than 300 communities are working to become dementia-friendly. Our booklet Living alone includes practical tips to help combat loneliness. Talking Point ( is an online community where members can share experiences in confidence. Alzheimer’s Society’s national Dementia Action Week will take place 21-27 May. We are calling on everyone to unite and take actions, big or small, to make a huge difference to people affected by dementia. To fend off loneliness and social isolation, we must all play a part in supporting some of the most vulnerable people to feel part of the community.

 Dr Tim Beanland is head of knowledge management at Alzheimer’s Society.


Dementia gradually impacts on people’s ability to connect with their loved ones, their friends and their community. People with dementia may start to be reluctant to leave the house, due to the fear of getting lost or confused in public and the stigma surrounding the condition.  At the same time relationships change within families, and there can be a marked decrease in contact with the wider world as people daunted by the condition stop visiting or making contact. And many people living with dementia live alone. For carers struggling to maintain their relationships, the impact can be doubly painful, especially where they are also facing the loss of wider circles of friendship and support. Dementia-friendly communities have helped make communities more inclusive but there is still much more that we can do. When people are diagnosed their social and emotional needs should also be addressed – how they can retain confidence and connections with the outside world for as long as possible. GPs and health workers need to be encouraged to signpost people to dementia clubs and hubs, and to arts and health initiatives.  Even when language becomes a struggle, music can still reach many people, and calm and absorb and reveal the soul within. Carers should be actively signposted to advice and information, respite and mutual support. And care homes need to invest in activities like music, choirs and the arts to bring joy and engagement and make the walls of the home disappear – linking them to the surrounding community.

Janet Morrison is chief executive of Independent Age.  She is chair of the Campaign to End Loneliness.


Loneliness is a problem that’s often in the news, and our knowledge of the potential health impacts is growing rapidly. Alzheimer’s Society, in their report The Hidden Voice of Loneliness, found that 62% of people with dementia who live alone said they feel lonely, compared to 38% of all people with dementia. Befriending services were named as a priority, allowing people with dementia to have regular contact with a person they trust. At Befrienders Highland, based in Inverness, we started a pilot to do just that back in 2011 and have since developed that pilot into a mainstream service. Our volunteer befrienders speak with their “friends” every week and we’ve found that this can make a huge difference in people’s lives. This is perhaps best illustrated by the stories of the people we befriend, and their carers:

  • Alistair’s carer told us that he frequently forgets who she and other family members are, but he looks forward to his weekly call from his befriender so much that he never forgets who he is.
  • Fiona lives alone and has a weekly call from her befriender. Because they talk regularly, the befriender was able to notice that she seemed very confused on two occasions. Having raised that with her coordinator, we referred to her GP and on both occasions it was found that she had an infection which might otherwise have gone unnoticed for longer.
  • Julie’s befriender found that she talked a lot about the arts and creativity and helped her to re-engage with that side of herself by sending her a paint set and notebook.

Keith Walker is executive director of Befrienders Highland.


We established Sporting Memories Network specifically to try to address a gap in provision for older men, particularly those living with dementia or memory problems. We know men are less likely to access medical services and are less likely to disclose emotions and feelings. The growing evidence base on the impact of loneliness on our health underlines the urgency and need for organisations and generations to work together to try to reach the most isolated, to offer meaningful ways to re-engage and connect people to communities. Time and again we hear stories from people who, on receiving a diagnosis of dementia, have lost confidence, motivation and subsequently their social connections through a combination of factors. Sport is a subject that men are comfortable discussing and can help raise confidence where participants are able to contribute to conversations and meaningful activities. While sporting memories groups are frequently advertised at GP surgeries and through memory clinics, it is often through relatives, peers and word of mouth that participants are recruited. It is worth emphasising that the groups are open to any sports fan over 50, although the majority of members have so far been male. Sport can play a significant role in supporting people to live well with dementia. We welcome the appointment of a minister for loneliness, with Tracey Crouch adding the role to her existing portfolio of sport and culture.

Tony Jameson-Allen is co-founder and director of Sporting Memories Network.


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