LONELINESS was brought front and centre on Friday as the key organisations engaged in tackling the problem came together at a single summit.

Organised by MP Robert Buckland in conjunction with the Swindon Seniors Forum, the event saw representatives from the police, the NHS, Swindon Borough Council, and the third sector join forces in a bid to make a real difference to what is an ever-growing problem.

Opening the event, Mr Buckland explained that a coordinated approach where organisations from different sectors worked together was important in the campaign to tackle the issue of loneliness.

“Loneliness can be felt by people of all ages,” he added. “But as we get older, risk factors begin to increase and converge. The impact can be devastating and costly to society as well as to the individual.

“We are very fortunate here in Swindon to have groups such as Swindon Seniors Forum who actively engage with older people from all backgrounds across the town on a wide range of issues.

“We also have Swindon Circles which has been making a real difference to the lives of elderly people. Volunteers from the project regularly visit more than 300 elderly people who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation.

“This event is about coming together and sharing information and resources and coming up with further plans on what we can all do to tackle loneliness in Swindon.”

The event saw speakers from the police, the council and the local mental health trust explain how they were trying to improve the way they serve the elderly and the way they identify warning signs of loneliness and confusion.

A powerful video featuring interviews with three elderly women in Swindon left attendees in no doubt as to the prevalence of the problem and the devastating impact it can have on those who don’t know where to turn.

With 31,000 pensioners in Swindon, almost 15,000 of them aged 75 or over, the discussion around how to provide the greatest and most effective level of support is crucial.

Friday’s summit was just the start of the process and the organisers hope it will act as a spark for further cooperation and inter-agency working.

In the interim, the council is looking to put together a one-stop online resource to provide further information on the support for those experiencing loneliness that is already available in Swindon.

If you would like to do more to help directly, you can also visit do-it.org to search for volunteering opportunities.