Older people living in cities are at a greater risk of social isolation, and London's complex service infrastructure and high levels of population churn present a unique context. The paper explores the scale and nature of social exclusion among older people, and identifies ways it can be reduced.

For too many people, growing older is a journey of loss - losing work, mobility and friendships. Surveys of ageing in England show that at least 10 per cent of older people are isolated and a similar proportion report being lonely.

Research from psychology and other disciplines has linked social isolation to a number of negative outcomes including depression, poor mental health and cognition, nursing home admission and mortality. Social isolation can also exclude people from services and amenities. Isolated people suffer from a lack of information about what services are available and can find it hard to get access to them.

Our research with older service users and service providers suggests there are four key factors underpinning strong social connections:

  • places for social interaction
  • services built on relationships not transactions
  • flows of information about what services are available
  • a way of initiating contact with isolated people.

These factors form the basis of the range of recommendations, for targeted interventions and wider initiatives for change, included in this report.