Lockdown loneliness: Those with poor vision are feeling more isolated than others

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Brits with poor vision are feeling lonelier during lockdown, new research by Specsavers reveals.

The study shows that more than half of those (51%) with poor vision have been feeling lonely at least some of the time and comes off the back of recent data that a third of people have seen their eyesight deteriorates since stay at home measures were imposed.

It also highlights that people who have been shielding have felt lonely for most of lockdown, with more than two fifths (43%) saying that they have felt lonely at least some of the time. This is particularly prominent in the over 65s where more than half (57%) have been shielding, making them more susceptible to feeling alone – especially as almost a quarter (23%) have also been spending lockdown on their own.

To try to combat this, while ensuring those in need of urgent and essential eye and hearing care are able to get the help they need, Specsavers has been staying connected with its most vulnerable sight and audiology customers by offering new services, such as RemoteCare – a free nationwide sight and hearing consultation service offering access to vital advice and care from optometrists and audiologists, via video and telephone link.

Its homes visits team are also making care calls to thousands of vulnerable people who may have missed sight or hearing tests during lockdown.

Specsavers Clinical Services Director Giles Edmonds says: ‘We understand that sight and hearing play an important part in helping us to stay connected to loved ones and the world around us. But we also know that, with age, comes vision or hearing impairment challenges and that means you may have a higher propensity to feeling isolated. This was reflected in our survey: those with poor vision (51%) and poor hearing (42%) said that they have been lonely some, or all, of the time since lockdown began.

‘We have a responsibility to our more vulnerable customers to do what we can to make contact, in a safe way, particularly if they are self-isolating. This is why we decided to call this group of customers to simply check-in. Were they ok and could we help?

‘Many stores have shared some lovely stories about supporting their vulnerable customers. Colleagues have charged hearing aid devices on doorsteps or cycled miles to hand-deliver new glasses. Our home visits team has also sent out thousands of Care Card postcards to those unable to leave their homes, which included contact details of key charity support groups Royal Voluntary Service, Age UK and The Silver Line.’

Royal Voluntary Service, who has co-ordinated the NHS Volunteer Responders helping people in need throughout the UK, were glad to offer their support to Specsavers’ Care Card postcard initiative.

RVS Director of Services and Deputy CEO, Sam Ward, says: ‘Even as lockdown eases, social isolation is likely to continue for many, especially for older or vulnerable people who may have been shielding or feel apprehensive about leaving their homes.

‘Having hearing difficulties or vision loss can make older and vulnerable people feel particularly isolated; phone and video calls can pose additional challenges as they make it difficult to hear properly or to lip-read. While it’s worrying to see so many people experiencing social isolation, in highlighting the issue we can work together to tackle it.

‘Now more than ever, it is so important to keep in touch with family and friends, and our partners at Specsavers have a wealth of advice on how best to connect with those living with sight or hearing loss.’

For more information about eye and hearing health, visit www.specsavers.co.uk.

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