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Cornwall's Lonely Neighbours

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3:30pm 30th December 2013

Pirate FM has learnt loneliness in Cornwall causes early death in the same way as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

34,000 people over 65 live on their own in the Duchy.

Now we are being urged to sign up to a pledge that we will look in on elderly friends or neighbours.

Natalie Jones is from NHS Kernow said: "Support from the family and neighbours at this time to relieve the loneliness and to see somebody, a happy smiling face, during the day is often very much appreciated. Lots of people don't see anybody on these dark evenings for days on end."

The campaign, led by the NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk) is asking for 100,000 people to sign an electronic pledge that states: "I will take time out this winter to look in on an elderly friend or neighbour to make sure they are warm and coping well."

Those who sign the Winter Friends pledge will receive free cold weather alerts and email tips throughout the winter to help them do their bit.

Dr Colin Philip, a GP in St Ives, who is Chair of NHS Kernow said: "Support from family, neighbours and the community are just as important as self and professional care. If you know someone who is frail or elderly or has an existing health problem keep a close eye on them especially during this wild weather. If they are feeling unwell, encourage them to seek early advice, take them to their local pharmacy or GP before one problem leads to another and they end up in hospital. "

People who wish to sign the pledge and join the NHS Winter Friends campaign should go to www.nhs.uk/WinterFriends.

Five ways you can help after signing the Winter Friends pledge:

* Set some time aside to drop in on an older neighbour or friend once a week - more often if the weather turns very cold.
*Check their home is warm enough. The main living area should be around 21°C (70°F) and bedrooms should be 18°C (65°F). If they are worried about the costs of heating, check they are receiving their heating bill benefits, such as Winter Fuel Payment (https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment) and Cold Weather Payment (https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment). If there are draughts you may be able to help plug them.
*Food is a vital source of energy that helps keep us warm. Make sure the person you are looking in on is eating well and has some non-perishable foods in the cupboard that they can heat up in case they can't leave the house for a few days. Tinned meals and soups are ideal.
*Many older people take medicines and everyone over 65 should have a free flu jab. Ask if there is anything you can do to help - picking up a prescription or giving them a lift to the GP's, for instance. And if you are unwell take real care not to pass it on.
*It's also important for people to keep active and get out if they can. Make sure the person you are helping has warm and grippy shoes and a good coat, hat and gloves. Offer to walk with them if they are not confident alone. If it snows clear the path to their door for them.

3:30pm 30th December 2013

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