Reducing isolation and loneliness
Local services can play a big role in helping our eldest residents feel part of their local community. The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) runs the Barnsley LOOP project for Barnsley Council’s Central Area Council, to reduce loneliness and isolation for older people.
Carol Foster, operations manager for RVS, said "It's really sad when you hear statistics saying that for 50% of people over 70 years old, a television is the only company they have. Our staff are out there, finding older people who may be lonely, and linking them up with volunteers who might help them. For some people, a cup of tea and a chat is enough. What people don't realise is that loneliness can have a really significant impact on someone's life - it can make people depressed which leads to other health complications creating costs for the NHS. The sad fact is we do have some older people who would rather stay in hospital than go home, because once they go home they will be alone again."
The LOOP team has four inclusion workers who work in the central area community, and are supported by 15 volunteers. They visit elderly people and introduce them to local activities and community groups. The project is already being expanded into other areas.
Carol Brady, the Area Council manager for Central, said the project was aimed at anyone over 60. She said “There is a real need for this service but it isn't sustainable without strong community support behind it. Supporting people through a scheme like this perhaps means less pressure in the long run on adult social care services budgets."
Groups have been supported to set up activities from luncheon clubs to bingo meetings. Resident Doreen Cureton was inspired to set up a 'Forever Young' group which meets weekly at Churchfields in the town centre. She said "I really enjoy it, we have a great time. I really do get a lot out of it and I would recommend that anyone does this."