Isolation and loneliness of older people


Busy streets, laughter, the sound of children playing – but what lies behind closed doors in our communities, especially for those in later life, living alone?  A group of community researchers, in collaboration with the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff, and with the Southville Community Development Association and the 3Gs Development Trusthave been exploring the loneliness of older people in their local communities.

Research has been co-produced with community organisations and with community researchers and artists in the Greater Bedminster area of Bristol and in the North Merthyr Tydfil area of South Wales.

Activities have been varied but have included:

  • interviewing older people about their experiences of isolation and loneliness
  • participatory mapping activities
  • working with artists to create and make visible different experiences of isolation and loneliness
  • focus groups with service providers and policy makers
  • researching intergenerational encounters between older and younger people
  • working with a writer to develop monologues based on data collected

Alonely is a collection of diverse stories based on our research. Our aim is to make the experiences of older people more visible as a way of encouraging dialogue between communities, professionals, academics and artists. Our installation and performances are designed to provide a space for considering utopian futures where alternative understandings of social isolation and loneliness in later life may emerge. Read full report on Alonely (PDF, 1MB).

Completed activities

AHRC Connected Communities Festival, 2015

In June 2015 the project was involved in the AHRC Connected Communities Festival running activities to explore creative ways to widen and deepen community engagement. The Isolation and Loneliness of Older People project hosted activities to complement and enhance the ongoing work with older people in each of the community locations.  The groups worked with local artists in their neighbourhoods to raise awareness of the research:

Audio Reflections

In 2016 a group of older volunteers, trained in community research, interviewed a number of local older people in the BS3 area in South Bristol, who have been affected in one way or another by isolation and loneliness. Their experiences and opinions were transcribed, mixed with a few thoughts from the interviewers and then reshuffled and refined by a local dramaturge, Adam Peck, into the pieces you hear. They are performed here by the same volunteer community researchers: Alexandra, Carol, Chris, Judith and Steve.

For further details about Audio Reflections email:


An exhibition –  Myrthyr Talks Isolation & Lonliness – was held at the town’s Redhouse centre in January 2016.

Utopias Festival, 2016

In June 2016 Members of the project travelled up to central London to showcase work (PDF, 81kB) at the AHRC, Connected Communities, Utopias Festival at Somerset House, celebrating the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia. A few weeks later an extended version of the work was presented at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol.

Report for service providers

October 2016 saw the publication of the project report: An exploration of the isolation and loneliness experienced by older people living in Merthyr Tydfil; A report for service providers (PDF, 1MB).

Key contact

Project outputs

Productive Margins, University of Bristol
8-10 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1HH

Tel: +44 (0)117 3940042