OLDER people need a 'friend' as figures show more than 54,000 over 60s in Worcestershire feel lonely.

Figures published by national charity Friends of the Elderly today show there are 20,241 lonely men over the age of 60 and and 34,164 lonely women in Worcestershire. In total 54,405 people in Worcestershire, more than a third of the county's population (34.7 per cent) over the age of 60, feel lonely or around one person in 11 households.

In Herefordshire 19,252 over 60s feel lonely (34.9 per cent of people in that age group) which accounts for one person in every 10 households in the county.

The statistics were calculated by taking data from ELSA (English Longitudinal Study of Ageing) and government actuary data. ELSA asked how often older people felt lonely. Further projections were made for the year 2030 using the data.

The national charity, which has several care homes in Malvern, is now calling on people to "Be a Friend" after a report called "The Future of Loneliness" was published today which shows that more than five million people in the UK are affected by loneliness. The report, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, suggests the number of older people who feel lonely will increase by 40 per cent by 2030 unless action is taken, especially with a growing elderly population.

A second, supporting survey was conducted by One Poll in May 2014, during which 2,500 people aged 18 and over were surveyed across the UK which showed that, in Worcester, 20 per cent of people have irregular or no contact with older people, 40 per cent do not know their neighbours well enough to have a conversation with them, 20 per cent never volunteer and 40 per cent feel they could do more.

The acts people are most willing to perform for an older person including keeping a spare key (80 per cent), picking up a grocery prescription (80 per cent) and doing their grocery shopping (60 per cent).

Friends chief executive Steve Allen said: “The Be a Friend campaign is a fundamental part of Friends of the Elderly’s long-term aim of combatting loneliness and isolation amongst older people. We already know the devastating impact loneliness has on individuals and communities in 2014, but the Future of Loneliness report shows just how vital it is for us to act now to prevent loneliness increasing in the future.

"We hope that by giving everyone the means to become friendlier, cooperative and more communicative places, we can work together to reverse the trend and help make sure everyone leads a happy and fulfilled life, whatever their age.”

Poverty is also considered an important factor in loneliness with poorer old people tending to be disadvantaged in multiple ways, including having lower levels of mobility, less access to technology and leisure activity.

Contact with younger people is an important ‘remedy’ for loneliness, whether or not they are an older persons’ biological children, the charity says.