Up to 77,000 people aged 65 and over may have suffered the death of a partner since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, one and a half times as many as in the same period in each of the five previous years.
This is according to new analysis by the national older people’s charity, Independent Age, which is calling on the Government to provide more support for bereaved people during and beyond the coronavirus crisis.
The charity estimates that, of these 77,000, at least 5,400 people will go on to develop complicated grief: a prolonged period of acute grief that occurs when the ‘normal’ grieving process is interrupted.
Developing complicated grief is more likely when someone is unable to grieve on their own terms, for example, by being isolated from family and friends, being unable to say goodbye face-to-face or hold a funeral, and not being able to access face-to-face professional support.
Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said: “The death of a partner can be devastating at any time of life. But the added challenges presented by the coronavirus lockdown have the potential to cause real and lasting damage to the emotional wellbeing, mental health, and resilience of people in later life.
“We know that bereavement in later life can result in loneliness and an increased likelihood of depression, and there is a greater risk of this when people aren’t able to follow familiar rituals and processes to help them grieve. That’s why it’s so important the Government ensures there is adequate support for both the people who have been bereaved and the organisations that work with them.”
For more information about how Independent Age is supporting older people, their families and carers during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit independentage.org
Independent Age is also working with Grief Chat to provide emotional support for bereaved people, access to trained bereavement counsellors and referral into other specialist bereavement services.
Further information is available at independentage.org/information/personal-life/grief-chat