New research by the University of Bristol shows how pubs have a crucial role to play in tackling loneliness amoung older men.
The study, which examines the role of pubs for men aged over 65 years old, discovered older men still see the pub as the heart of a community, although the rising cost of drinking meant more were consuming alcohol at home in isolation.
Off the back of the research special beer mats have been created.
Dubbed Beermat(es), the mats have trivia questions and games by designer Mufti Games, and will appear in pubs across the Bristol area.
Recent figures revealed 14 per cent of older men experienced moderate to high social isolation compared to 11 per of women.
Researchers from the University's Brigstow Institute wanted to understand how pubs can potentially tackle this problem, and held workshops and a focus group with older men, pub landlords and community support services over a six-month period.
A key finding was men's reasons for going to the pub were much broader than just drinking alcohol.
It found they wanted to interact with other people, get out of the house and break their daily routine (for those living on their own), to enjoy live music with others, and as a reward in the working week.
The changing nature of pubs was also outlined, with higher prices, fewer social activities and louder music making it harder for older men to access pubs. Men felt it was no longer acceptable to 'nurse a pint' if you were unable to afford multiple drinks.
Landlords and pub owners were identified as having an important role to play in creating a social space where people felt welcome. The men's group felt that it was the role of the landlord to get to know their frequent customers and provide a point of regular social interaction, particularly for pub-goers who may be experiencing loneliness.
It also highlighted how large pubcos can be damaging, as they can result in "frequent changes of staff who do not know their clientele on first name basis".
Dr Paul Willis from the School for Policy Studies, which led the research, said: "As the UK population ages, the number of older people at risk of social isolation and loneliness is on the rise, which can have a detrimental impact on physical and mental health outcomes for older adults.
"Evidence for 'what works' in reducing loneliness and social isolation among older people is limited, especially for men. Hence, we turned our focus on the role of pubs and their potential to reduce loneliness and social isolation for older men.
"The findings have helped us to develop beermats which will be distributed across the city to promote conversation and face-to-face social interactions, which we know are so vital to combat feelings of isolation."