LONDON/CAMBRIDGE - An increasing number of older men are experiencing isolation and loneliness, a recent study by the International Longevity Centre and the charity Independent Age suggests. This research underlines what Dr Michael Schluter and David Lee have called the need for 'Relational Pensions' (see The Relational Manager).

We all know what a financial pension is. We store up capital so that when we retire we have enough money to support ourselves for the rest of our lives. A relational pension works on the same basis. We need to store up ‘relational capital’, i.e. relationships with friends and family, to give us the support we need after retirement.

The study shows, that with increasing numbers of lonely older people, building these ‘relational pensions’ is absolutely crucial. While various services can be introduced, and there are many recommendations in the report, there is only so much they can do to solve loneliness and social isolation. Particularly as the numbers of isolated and lonely elderly people is rapidly increasing, services will find themselves increasingly unable to cope with the numbers. They are also unable to deal completely with the need, as while relationships can be encouraged and fostered, they can’t be legislated. The big need is for families and friends to stay connected to look after each other in old age.