Elderly People in Middlesbrough receive cash to help beat isolationOctober 7, 2014
Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind have been awarded a £6 million grant to fund a project aiming to reduce social isolation and loneliness experienced amongst those over 50. Older people in Middlesbrough will be actively involved in creating and managing their own networks; the activities will be user-led, where the volunteer participants are encouraged to support others and initiate friendships.
Loneliness in the UK has been described by experts as an epidemic, increasingly affecting older people, and in particular the elderly. Compared to any other age group, for example, a higher percentage of over 80s reported feelings of loneliness. The number of those in the UK living alone has risen to 7.6 million, an increase of 1 million since 1996, with over half of all people ages 75 and over living alone. Loneliness can have both physical and mental health implications; depression, anxiety, and stress are all related to loneliness, as well as the risk of dementia. Additionally, 2013 findings from the Office for National Statistics show that loneliness can affect someone’s ability to carry out daily activities and as well as negatively impact overall life satisfaction.
Research carried out by Mind revealed that 44% of older people in Middlesbrough have reported that they often, or sometimes feel lonely. Middlesbrough has poorer levels of health and wellbeing than the national average, and a lower life expectancy for both men and women. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that of the 10,500 older people in the town, 3977 of them are widowed, 2799 have sight loss and 2240 are informal carers. The project will be aimed at the poorest in the town, as well as those with health problems, those who live alone, and those who are carers.
Emma Howitt, Chief Executive of Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind, says ‘this is the kind of opportunity and investment we rarely dare to dream about. It will give Mind and our partners the opportunity to work alongside more than 10,000 people aged over 50 in Middlesbrough to tackle the causes of loneliness and isolation’.
Lynda Monks, specialist wills and probate solicitor at Macks said “Avoiding loneliness can be particularly challenging as you get older, or become housebound and have children scattered around the country and the world. I think the grant is a marvellous idea and will reduce loneliness and isolation – which in turn will improve people’s health and wellbeing. I am very pleased our area is receiving such a large amount and is not being overlooked as is so often the case.”
The project works by creating conditions whereby older people can share their interests and pass on their skills, enabling friendships and increase social contact. The charity aims to provide those at risk of social isolation with improved knowledge of services. Older people are actively engaged in the planning and running of services for isolated older people. The charity hopes that the project will be successful in demonstrating that health can be positively affected by social contact through community activity. Projects are scheduled to commence after April 2015.