Using memories of sport to engage older people in conversation and reminiscence, the network engages with volunteers across communities to establish social groups in a wide variety of settings.
Following an initial pilot project involving 15 care homes in Leeds, the approach has been rolled out across cities and counties to engage with people over the age of 55, particularly those who may have memory problems, dementia, depression or are at risk of being socially isolated. Partners involved in current projects include professional sports clubs, adult social care providers, NHS Wards, Care Homes, libraries, museums and pubs.
In addition to promoting and improving mental well-being through reminiscence, the local projects also raise awareness of conditions such as dementia across communities and generations.
The Rushey Green Practice has been using social prescribing for the last 10 years. It ‘prescribes’ patients with symptoms of depression and isolation, an opportunity to volunteer through its own timebank. Patients who join and volunteer by gardening, cooking, painting or doing other community work are rewarded with credits in the timebank system as well as forming new social connections.
Evidence suggests this reduces isolation and increases a sense of purpose (as patients become assets to others), as well as improving mental and physical health.
With more than 200 participants, mostly over 50, the time bank also reaches beyond the practice – 45% of participants are referred. Participants reach out and recruit new members in the community, help to organise and run events. There are also paid staff, particularly to match people to tasks, work with people with mental health needs, and monitor safeguarding issues.
Now a charity, the time-bank is now partly funded by Lewisham Primary Care Trust amongst others.
For more information: http://www.rgtb.org.uk/ and other examples of social prescribing in Bradford and Newcastle
Tools Company gives older men with complex needs a chance to reconnect with meaningful, practical activity by reconditioning tools for sale or for charities in UK and Africa.
Volunteers from the existing Men in Sheds initiative in Exeter work alongside older men with complex needs (e.g. Parkinson’s, dementia, depression and anxiety, visual impairment, stroke sufferers etc) to recondition donated tools. Participants come to the shed, where in the company of other men (participants, buddies and staff) they are helped and supported to refurbish tools, forming friendships and sharing experiences like eating together. The refurbished tools are then sold or sent to Africa via another charity Tools For Self Reliance(TFSR).
The initiative was established by Age UK Exeter in 2012 following consultations with local older men, vulnerable adults and health and social care professionals in the areas. They identified the need for some older men to be given the opportunity to make friends and connect after retirement or illness, and a practical job like refurbishing tools seemed to fit the bill.
Research shows that loneliness has a similar impact on mortality as smoking, and is worse for us than obesity. It has significant links to hypertension, depression, and increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50% (which costs the NHS an estimated £20 billion a year).
The Campaign to End Loneliness is a coalition of organisations and individuals working together through research, policy, campaigning and innovation to combat loneliness and inspire individuals to keep connected in older age in the UK. It has created policy briefings, advice for local Health and Wellbeing Boards and is working with Esther Rantzen on The Silver Line.
The Campaign is backed by a coalition of organisations including WRVS, Independent Age, and Age UK Oxfordshire, and is funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
For more information: http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/