Day Centres are a vital social entity for elderly people and of exceptional importance for elderly people who are regarded as socially isolated.
Yet the number of day centres is decreasing in the UK many of the closures being blamed on the lack of finance to maintain them.
Some councils are retaining some of their day centres but increasing the cost of attendance and/or the cost of transport to them which means that many elderly people cannot afford to go or are reducing the number of days they used to enjoy.
Care home residents are now unlikely to attend if their care home place is paid for by their local council, because attendance at a day centre may be viewed as those hours being paid for twice!
Isolation amongst elderly people, as research suggests, is linked to a higher risk of death. Social isolation has a negative impact on health with depression common and quality of life diminishing.
Isolated people may lose the impetus to care for themselves, both physically and mentally and a personal drop in standards of nutrition, personal care, etc often follows.
Day centres are attended by elderly people on benefits and by self funders. Both sectors have one thing in common in that if they are socially isolated then their day or two at a centre gives trained staff the opportunity to look out for them. To notice any changes in their appearance, health, general wellbeing and if necessary action professional help. Day centres in this respect are a safety net.
An elderly person falling at home, being unwell but due to be collected for a day centre visit but not ready at the time of collection is likely to mean that the transport driver will see why they are not about, another safety net.
Where else in one place can an elderly person meet with other people, have a cooked lunch, have their feet looked at, take part in some gentle exercise, play cards, bingo or just chat.
Belonging to a day centre for an isolated person gives a sense of camaraderie, an 'owning' of a club membership, a cheerful, stimulating few hours.
Daily we are told about the increasing number of elderly people who will be in our population in ten, twenty, thirty years ahead. The media wonders if our health systems will be able to cope, who will provide and who will pay.
Surely now is the time to view day centres as preventative medicine for many elderly people and re-open closed centres and make plans to build new ones as a matter of urgency.