Combatting social isolation in retirement
During National Loneliness Week we celebrated projects at some of our retirement living schemes that help beat social isolation and forge vital links with local communities.
The projects include inter-generational activities that pair schemes with their local schools as well as projects to encourage older people in the community to visit their local retirement home and make new friends.
Wayne Exton, Lifestyle Change Manager for Midland Heart, said: “Evidence shows that being active and being having regular contact with others has enormous health benefits for older people. Our retirement living schemes are vibrant places where we are creative and where we encourage our customers to continue to learn and achieve their goals in life.
“Many of the activities we offer help our residents to build their confidence, engage, socialise and meet new people. Inter-generational activities bring another dimension in that they facilitate learning and sharing between the older and younger generations, creating a spirit of community.
“Our residents enjoy interacting with children and teenagers, sharing their memories, and ideas and learning some new skills, whilst the young people, some of whom may have little contact with grandparents, gain valuable social skills and a more positive perspective on ageing and older people.”
This week is National Loneliness Week, launched in 2017 by the Marmalade Trust, a charity dedicated to raising awareness of loneliness and social isolation.
At Camoys Court, Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, an inter-generational “Coming Together” project with St Peter’s Academy has been hugely successful.
“Our residents and the children really look forward to the school visits - as do the children – and say it’s like a breath of fresh air,” said Activities Co-ordinator Angela Pugh of the monthly get-togethers.
“The benefits have been remarkable, opening many avenues for both the children and our residents,” she said. “Working with the school we realised that today not many children live with grandparents as a family unit, or even get to see them as we may have done. Unfortunately, the generation gap has widened and most of our residents never have contact with a young person.”
Resident Margaret said: “I was a classroom assistant for many years and missed it very much when I retired. The school and Angela have made such a difference to my life by bringing us together. I have been to the school and shared lunch with them, been on trips and taken part in themed events and arts and crafts sessions.”
At Bevan Court, Cheylesmore, Coventry, Activities Co-ordinator Gemma Morrison is working with Baginton Fields School Council to develop joint activities to integrate both the school and the retirement village into the local community.
She said: “Feedback has been so positive and we are hoping to keep building on our relationship with the school by finding new ways of bringing customers and students together. After a recent craft session here many children told me they wanted to come and work at Bevan Court when they were older!
“We are developing links too with our local community and have invited anyone who is feeling a bit isolated to come and have a cuppa and chat with us at our daily morning coffee breaks. We’re thrilled too that our local Age UK is launching a lunch club here in July which will bring more local people to Bevan Court.”
Berryhill Village in Stoke-on-Trent, is undertaking a loneliness project with the nearby Discovery Academy. Residents have taught students how to play skittles, snooker and dominoes and the young people have shown residents how to make origami flowers.
Feedback from the academy is that students were “buzzing” after their first session as well as intrigued by an older resident’s recollection of being caned at school!
Penmakers at Smethwick has forged mutually beneficial links with Sandwell Community College with students visiting to help residents and the scheme including raising £320 towards the creation of a memorial garden at Penmakers.
Last year, St Crispin’s retirement village at Duston and Voluntary Impact Northampton, ran a three-month project in which residents and children from local nurseries and a primary school exchanged postcards and together created a cardboard replica of the landmark clock tower on the village site.
Following the success of last year’s #DustonRocks community project with bugs painted on stones, St Crispin’s will be repeating the activity on a seaside theme from next month.
Monthly “Boogie Beats” are on the programme at St Dominic’s, Stoke-on-Trent, where children from St Thomas Aquinas primary school visit the scheme for play, song and story-telling sessions. Pupils from Blurton Rainbow Academy also visit with their glee club and choir, while residents have caught the school bus to see the children’s annual show.
April Harper, Activities co-ordinator at St Dominic’s, said: “Inter-generational activities play an important role to both residents and the children who both get a buzz from participating and having fun, whilst breaking down barriers.”
As well as group projects retirement living staff also arrange events to benefit individuals, such as a visit to their former school or workplace to reminisce. One lonely resident at Arbourtree Court, Wombourne recently visited nearby scheme Brunel Court to attend the friendship club and within minutes was reunited with a former work colleague and catching-up on the lost years.