20/10/2018 00:01 BST | Updated 20/10/2018 00:01 BST

1 In 5 Over-70s Eat Most Meals Alone – Here's How You Can Help

Would you set up your own lunch club?

‘Next Steps’ – a regular feature from our HumanKind project – focuses on how the public can take action to make a difference in society. 

An estimated 1.6 million people aged 70 and over eat all of their main daily meals alone, a heartbreaking new survey has revealed.

The Royal Voluntary Service asked a sample of over-70s in the UK about their daily eating habits and the level of social interaction they have at mealtimes.

The research found that eating alone could have a detrimental impact on health with nearly one in five (16 per cent) saying they eat less healthily if dining by themselves. Worryingly, more than 700,000 over-70s admit to skipping one of their daily meals at least seven or more times each week.

didesign021 via Getty Images

How To Help

There are 76 Royal Voluntary Service lunch clubs up and down the country, serving more than 50,000 meals each year to older people in the community for a fiver each.

But with one in five eating many of their main meals alone, the charity is calling for more volunteers to start and run lunch and social dining clubs in their community.

If you wouldn’t feel overwhelmed cooking for a crowd, you can sign up to become a lunch club volunteer here. The role involves helping with food preparation, serving meals and giving a friendly welcome to diners. 

Some might want to go the extra mile and launch a lunch club of their own. Royal Voluntary Service offers guidance; a toolkit to set you up; help with insurance, marketing and finding volunteers; and seed funding to help get you started.

Rebecca Kennelly, director of volunteering, said: “Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery is helping Royal Voluntary Service to develop more lunch and social clubs across the country to ensure older people get to eat at least one healthy, hot meal in the company of others on a regular basis. 

“We hope our campaign inspires more people to become members or donate their time to volunteer. We also want to encourage more people to take the lead in their communities, by volunteering to start up their own lunch and social club, so that less people have to eat alone.”