According to research published in June 2014 by the Office for National Statistics, the UK is among the most socially isolated countries in Europe.

A survey by Age UK in 2014, found that more than one million people over 65 in the UK are often or always lonely, an increase of 38% on the previous year. Two-fifths of respondents said that their main form of company is the television.

There has been a huge trend in society in recent decades towards individualism – it’s the result of affluence and commercialisation. Companies want us to live in one-bedroom flats, with our own washing machines and computers. We are boxing off people and sticking them in open plan offices to stare at screens. On the factory floors there was banter, there was interaction. That’s what the men miss here.”

The Campaign to End Loneliness, a national network set up in 2011, believes the issue is a “public health disaster” waiting to happen. Scientific research shows that for older people, loneliness is twice as unhealthy as obesity, as it is linked to high blood pressure, strokes and a weakened immune system.

Laura Ferguson, the director of the campaign, says: “This needs to be a top priority for every local health and care service. We need national leadership and investment on this issue or we may end up pushing already stretched services to breaking point.”

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