Building on AGE internal networking on loneliness and social isolation launched at the General Assembly 2017, interested AGE members from France, Czech Republic, Belgium, UK and Denmark and Portugal met on 23-24 January in Cassel, France, to pursue reflection. This networking meeting was hosted by our French member, les petits frères de Pauvres and aimed at identifying similarities/differences in the way the phenomenon of loneliness and social isolation is addressed by policy makers and civil society actors in different countries. Debate was organised around a few key topics, such as measurement of old-age isolation/loneliness, grass-roots practice in supporting persons experiencing loneliness/isolation, or the role of respective actors (older persons themselves, social workers and professionals, public authorities, volunteers or community services etc.) in providing support. The discussion raised an issue of multiple connections between loneliness/isolation and other factors, such as gender, ethnicity, socio-economic conditions, health and mental status, geographical dimension etc. The multitude and complexity of causes of loneliness and social isolation in old age led us to the conclusion of the need for further public awareness about the phenomenon, and of the potential for cooperation with representatives of other population groups and institutional actors – both indispensible to tackle the problem.
Looking ahead to AGE further action, the networking group proposed to involve other AGE members into debate in order to build AGE collective and individual capacity to prevent old-age loneliness and social isolation. The topic will be addressed at the next general Assembly in June 2018 and, if agreed by members, additional policy and advocacy actions at both national and EU level could be proposed.