AGE UK Wiltshire has welcomed the news local authorities are to be assessed on how well they tackle the issue of loneliness and isolation among the elderly.
The charity said the problem can have a hugely detrimental affect on the health of pensioners and needs tackling.
Swindon Council works with the charity on a number of schemes and programmes, such as Call in Time where volunteers call those who live alone to have a chat about anything they wish.
However, chief executive Brian Deeley believes it is something which the wider community need to face up to.
Brian said: “The effects of isolation and loneliness are well documented and can have a very negative impact on someone’s health.
“Studies have shown it can have a similar affect to smoking 16 cigarettes a day and greatly increases the likelihood of suicidal thoughts.
“The cost is therefore not only felt by the individual but also the costs on the health service.
“It is a problem which is often linked with people living in rural areas but it is just as possible for people to become cut off when living in the middle of a town or city.
“This is something which society has to start tackling.”
Brian says that while he appreciates there are budget pressures, the schemes to ensure the elderly are kept in touch with the outside world are important.
He said: “Call In Time is something we work with Swindon Council on and gives people the chance to have a conversation with someone on whatever they wish.
“Ideally, getting people out and about and doing something they are interested in is the best way. We work with the council to run a lunch club in Rodbourne Cheney and these are great.
“It gives people the opportunity to speak with others and in some cases do something they have a direct interest in, such as knitting.
“I welcome the fact that authorities will be monitored on this because it is a very important issue.”
The council have recently launched a new website which provides a list of services which are available within Swindon and includes services such as lunch clubs.
Coun Brian Mattock (Con, Old Town), the cabinet member for social care, said: “We are committed to services that are effective, high-quality, a positive experience and keep people safe. This one-stop, growing website will help you, your family, carer or provider access a wide range of information about the choices available to you in Swindon, as well as other advice and support, which is personalised to you and your needs.’’ The website can be accessed by visiting www.mycaremysupport.co.uk.