A housing association has launched a major campaign to combat loneliness that can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Cartrefi Conwy organised their annual Older Persons’ Day at Venue Cymru in Llandudno where the issue was high on the agenda.

Research by an eminent American professor has shown that the impact of being lonely on a person’s health is devastating.

According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Utah, being lonely is worse for than obesity and as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day

Among the tenants who attended the event was silver surfer Rose Haycock, 62, who lives at the Cysgod Gogarth housing scheme in Llandudno.

She attended a computer training course run by Cartrefi Conwy and now uses Skype to keep in touch with members of her family.

She said: “It was really good. Cartrefi Conwy had someone come in to teach tenants about computers. I also got my nephew to help me too.

“I got an iPad and now I can Skype my nephew, Matthew, who lives in North Wales not too far away but also my other nephew, Paul and his girlfriend Dawn, who live near Market Drayton.

“It’s made a big difference to me and stopped me being lonely. On Skype I can see them and talk to them very easily and I feel like I’m not alone anymore.”

“I’m really grateful to Cartrefi Conwy for helping me learn about the internet and teaching me what to do. It’s amazing really and without it I’d only have the four walls and the telly to look at.”

The event was officially opened by Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders who praised Cartrefi Conwy for their work with older people saying the organisation was “far more than a housing association”.

She said: “Loneliness isn’t just a one or two day thing, like Christmas or Easter it’s a 365 day a year problem. Loneliness and isolation are two of the biggest threats facing Wales today.

“It’s important older people get connected and online so they can talk to friends and family that may not live locally through the internet.”

She added: “As the Assembly’s Welsh Conservative’s Older People’s Champion , it’s pleasing to see the work being done by Cartrefi Conwy in building communities and making life better for older tenants.”

Another tenant Ann Owen, 85, a retired children’s nurse from Dolgarrog, explained how weekly visits from her Cartrefi Conwy Independent Living Co-ordinator Allison Hughes have helped her get her confidence back and stopped her from feeling isolated.

She said: “I had an accident after falling on a bus. I was going to the surgery in Conwy and went flying. That was two years ago and it took me a year to get over it. I no longer had any confidence and wouldn’t go on the bus.

“But I had a chat with Allison and now she calls to see me every week and I’ve started going to the All Together Group in Llanrwst where I meet people and make friends.”

Cartrefi Conwy Independent Living co-ordinator Allison Hughes said: “A few months ago Ann would never have come to an event such as the Older Person’s Day but she has had a fantastic time and made lots of new friends.”

According to Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Persons Engagement Coordinator, tackling loneliness and isolation among older tenants was a priority for the housing association.

She said: “The two main themes of our Older Person’s Day were combating loneliness and being united against dementia.

“We have introduced several schemes and training programmes aimed at getting older people on-line and benefitting from using the internet.

“I’m delighted so many of our older tenants have taken advantage of the event. I’m also grateful for the support of our partner agencies that have come along to offer help and advice to our tenants.”

She added: “It’s been an amazing day and I’m really pleased to see so many happy tenants enjoying lunch, playing bingo and taking part in the other activities while generally having a good time.

“The entertainment, the professional song and dance group the Gatsby Girls and Ysgol John Bright music students, have been superb. It has been a fantastic day and the whole Cartrefi Conwy team can be proud of what we have achieved.”

Cartrefi Conwy managing director Gwynne Jones says the Older Persons Day was a great success.

He said: “It’s been lovely to see so many smiling faces. Nerys Veldhuizen and the whole Cartrefi Conwy team have done an amazing job.

“It’s also an opportunity for us to inform tenants about what is going on and give them the opportunity to meet Cartrefi Conwy staff that can help them on a day-to-day basis.