HALF of people in their 50s and 60s say they feel more trusting of their neighbours as a result of lockdown, according to a new study, while almost half report feeling a greater sense of belonging to their local area and two-thirds saying they know more people they could count on to help if they were ill or unable to leave their home.
However, those who are financially less well-off are least likely to have felt these benefits. 85% of people in their 50s and 60s who are living comfortably feel trusting of their neighbours, compared to just 55% of those who are finding it difficult to get by. People in this age group who are living comfortably are almost twice as likely to say they know more people they can count on as a result of lockdown compared to those who are struggling to get by.
Perhaps most worryingly, those with long-term health conditions or illnesses are less likely than people without these conditions to say they know more people they could count on to help, to feel a greater sense of belonging, or to feel trusting of their neighbours.
Many people are more aware of local voluntary groups that offer support and help than before the pandemic; however, those most in need are least likely to be more aware of these groups. Almost two-thirds of 50-69-year-olds who are living comfortably say they are more aware of these groups, compared to just a third of those who find it difficult to get by.
The Centre for Ageing Better has warned that these new figures indicate a widening gap between communities where people are better off and those where people are struggling, and say more targeted action is needed from government to support communities in the months ahead.
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“The first lockdown was extremely difficult for many of us, but better connections to our neighbours has been one of the silver linings. Our research shows that the experience of lockdown increased people’s feelings of trust in their neighbours and their sense of belonging to their local area. More people also now know people they can count on to help out if they need it.
“But it’s worrying to see that people with long-term health conditions or those who are less well-off haven’t experienced these benefits as much. They are less likely to have found people they can count on for support, and less likely to know about voluntary organisations they could turn to.
“As many parts of the country begin to face tighter restrictions, action must be taken to ensure that people don’t miss out on the support and connections they need.
“The response of communities during lockdown was incredible, but we need the government to support community organisations and charities to reach and engage people in poorer communities to mobilise this mutual support.”
The new data comes from a survey collected using a representative cohort of almost 3,400 adults across England. This is the first of two surveys looking at people’s experiences of their homes and communities during lockdown and forms part of a large data project published next month that will reveal how older people are faring in England.