"As a charity, we exist to improve the lives of older people, eradicating loneliness within our communities supports this vision. We hope by enabling our residents and those living within the local co"
ExtraCare, a registered charity that exists to create better lives for older people, will deliver a programme of tailored support to improve the confidence of its residents and those in the wider community who are facing loneliness, over the next three years. A series of confidence workshops to empower people to engage in social activity and ‘chatty cafes’ will be delivered at ExtraCare’s retirement villages in Birmingham and Earlsdon Park Village in Coventry.
The project launch coincides with the start of Loneliness Awareness Week (17-21 June), an annual event to raise awareness of loneliness. Older people are especially vulnerable to isolation. Loneliness can have a serious affect on an individual’s health – as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and a knock on detrimental impact on the NHS.
The announcement also follows the release of the charity’s recent research results with Aston and Lancaster Universities that found 87% of its residents living in its retirement communities are ‘never or hardly ever’ lonely. A great result but one that highlighted the need to identify and support those who are facing isolation.
Michael Spellman, ExtraCare’s Project Lead comments: “As a charity, we exist to improve the lives of older people, eradicating loneliness within our communities supports this vision. We hope by enabling our residents and those living within the local community to feel more confident and get involved in the array of activities on offer, not only at our villages but within the city, we’ll help more people to feel less lonely.”
A dedicated social engagement supporter has been recruited by the charity to run the initiative and will enhance the village’s existing specialist team of dementia and mental health, and well-being advisors. Volunteers will be trained to support by becoming ‘befrienders’ and ‘buddies’.
The retirement villages also offer an array of activity including tai-chi, woodwork, chair yoga, choir singing and quiz nights. Longbridge has a successful stay and play group bringing together older people and young children – intergenerational activity is known to have a positive impact on people of all ages something highlighted in the charity’s involvement in the BAFTA-nominated Channel 4 show Old People’s Home for 4 Year-Olds.
Matt Poole, Head of Regional Funding for the Midlands at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players we are able to support more projects addressing loneliness and social isolation than any other funder in the UK.
“We’re delighted that many of the projects we have funded this quarter are focussed on bringing communities together, enabling people to make new connections and empowering their communities to thrive. With their ideas, knowledge and passion, this money changes lives.”
Over 4,500 residents, aged 55-100+ live in the charity’s retirement communities across the Midlands and further south, most with 250 plus homes and up to 18 facilities including gyms, shops, hair salons, IT suites, hobby rooms and bistro restaurants. Residents live in one or two-bedroom apartments with care, well-being and dementia support available. For many their new homes have meant new friends and a new lease of life with access to a wide range of activities and volunteering opportunities.