Loneliness campaign launches across the city

Challenging the problems of living alone.

A life-changing campaign to empower Birmingham citizens to tackle the problems of isolation in the over 50s is now making major inroads across Birmingham.

Ageing Better in Birmingham aims to drive down loneliness and isolation in older age. This is achieved through a grass-roots approach designed to empower and connect individuals, helping to create sustainable change in communities.

So far 2,723 people have benefited from a scheme which was launched in April 2015 and delivered by an Ageing Better Partnership, led by BVSC. It is funded by a £6million, six-year grant from the Big Lottery Fund and is part of the Ageing Better national strategic programme.

Jeraldene Dew, 70, sits on the Age of Experience panel, a cohort of older people involved in the decision making across all aspects of the programme.

She said: “Ageing Better is doing excellent work in Birmingham. To age better you have to have a better ageing policy within yourself. I made the decision when I was 65, and had to retire, to have an ageing policy – a plan for what I was going to do with myself. A lot of people don’t have that policy in their head. I think if everyone had a better ageing policy then it definitely helps.

“There are groups out there and Ageing Better in Birmingham is there to help people find out what’s going on. Working as part of the Age of Experience team has also had a huge positive impact on my life.”

The programme has developed existing community events, clubs and activities and refocused them on encouraging people to get together to reduce isolation as well as encouraging the formation of new initiatives.

Community worker, Janet Nock, 59, runs Time to Talk, for the over 50’s in Sparkbrook with help from the Ageing Better fund.

She said: “Our existing group was no longer viable so Ageing Better in Birmingham helped us to continue and grow. Our group meets weekly to socialise and have a weekly discussion. We have a wide age range that attend from 50 to 86.

“The funding has helped us to run various events like social media sessions to teach the older generations about all the different ways to keep in touch and we’ve had some great success introducing people with dementia and older people from the muslim community to the group. It’s all about helping people to engage in activity and feel good about themselves.”

As part of the initiative, people of all ages are being encouraged to apply for up to £2,000 through the Ageing Better Fund to start activities, initiatives and events for the collective benefit of isolated older people across the city. The aim is to increase social interaction, help people to make new friends, increase positive activity and boost feelings of wellbeing.

By 2020, almost 57,000 people aged 65 plus will be living alone in Birmingham, (37 per cent of the age group), and this rises to almost 81,000, almost 53 per cent of the age group, when those with a limiting long-term illness are included.

Stephen Raybould, Programme Director, said: “Social isolation can come about through the life changing events that can effect everybody. This isn’t a problem that affects other people – it’s a you and me problem. The Ageing Better programme is all about bringing communities together and connecting people. Those over 50 need not be isolated because there is help, support and activities taking place in their communities.

“We are talking about friendship, but we are also talking about a life-changing opportunity for many individuals. We want to empower individuals to become free of isolation and to enjoy their later life with other people in their neighbourhood.

“We are offering the chance for people to contribute to their community, which can help people to feel valued. Other benefits of our programme include broadening participants’ horizons and enabling people from different backgrounds to mix.”

To ensure help gets to where it is most needed, four priority areas have been identified – Isolated carers, ensuring the older Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender LGBT community does not have to go ‘back into the closet’, Tyburn, which has a high over eighty population and Sparkbrook where mobile communities face particular challenges.

For information about programmes taking place near you email: ageingbetter@bvsc.org or call 0121 678 8876.