A WIGAN charity chief has hailed plans to introduce maps pinpointing where the loneliest people might live.
Chief officer at Age UK Wigan Borough John McArdle said services must use these devices to help focus services to those who are most isolated.
It follows a report by the Campaign to End Loneliness which found those who suffered from isolation are more at risk of developing dementia, high blood pressure and depression.
Mr McArdle said: “The idea of loneliness maps is a novel way of doing something practical to identify and reach people at risk of loneliness.
“One of the difficulties we’ve faced in identifying people so far has been how to find them.
“This tool gives us an easy way of identifying areas and targeting help and resources.
“We know how damaging loneliness can be to a person’s health.
“We need to be more pro-active in targeting support in a timely way.
“Services also have an enormous amount of data and we all need to get better at understanding how this data can be used to offer the right sort of help when people need it.
“Being lonely can be very isolating and we each have a responsibility to reach out to people in our neighbourhoods and communities.
“The insight provided by the loneliness maps is a helpful start.”
Research also found those suffering from loneliness are also more likely to put strain on the NHS by visiting their GP more often, or entering residential care earlier.
The maps will help charity and health bosses to identify those at need quicker in order to offer them immediate help.
Indicators include households with just one occupant, a head of a household aged 65 or above and being situation in a low income area.
The Campaign to End Loneliness, which compiled the report with the University of Kent, warned as it released the document that loneliness and isolation are as harmful to our long-term health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Wigan Borough Age UK’s Bright Day’s programme has a range of services available for older people.
For more information visit www.ageuk.org.uk/wiganborough/our-services/bright-days-programme.