Dorset’s Christchurch Angels are to start a befriending service to those who live alone in the town.
The Angels have launched the project, after the problem of loneliness was identified in the area.
They will help vulnerable people with shopping, dog walking and gardening, in the hope that it will engage isolated people in social activity.
The project also wants to increase access to public transport for people, as this can decrease the likelihood of loneliness.
1-in-six Christchurch residents are over 75, compared to 1-in-13 nationally, making it an area with one of the highest concentrations of pensioners in England.
Christchurch was the focal point of a recent Top Gear episode in which presenters James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson were challenged to design a car specifically for elderly people.
The episode was criticised by Councillor Ray Nottage, leader of the borough council who said that Christchurch had been portrayed as a extension to a care home.
A report by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) found that 1-in-60 people over-50 are socially isolated in England.
Why tackle loneliness?
Loneliness is an emotion that may have been developed by humans in evolution to ensure that they remain in close interaction with each one another. It has also been linked to reasons for an early death.
According to Age UK, half of all people aged 75 and over live alone.
Louise Margate, from Campaign to End Loneliness said: “It is an issue which needs to be recognised by the government. Making sure elderly people are not isolated means they are less likely to have accidents by themselves, and it will improve their quality of life greatly.”
One initiative, which has recently been set up, is The Casserole Club.
This is an innovative project that allows people to share extra portions of their home cooked food with neighbors and others nearby who can’t always cook for themselves.
So far all the diners in the scheme are over the age of 80, and benefit not only by being fed a hearty meal, but they get the chance to interact with someone on a regular basis.
The project is currently only running in Reigate and Banstead, however it is soon to spread across the country.
One of the clubs biggest success stories so far is the friendship of diner 81-year-old Pam and cook 72-year-old Maggie, who regularly meet up over one of one of Maggie’s home cooked dinners.
Matt Skinner, the project leader of the casserole club. He says “this is the perfect example of how we can help pensioners not only with every day life, but with a friend. Being old can be lonely and depressing but it really doesn’t have to be!”
3 ways you could cut down loneliness in Dorset
Volunteer with the Angels
Think you could befriend someone in need? Offer your services helping out with shopping, gardening and other everyday activities that you take for granted. Like Pam and Maggie, you could find a friend in someone completely unexpected and learn a lot. Potential volunteers can apply by telephoning Stour Surgery Reception, Barrack Road, or contact Dan Pile at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 075135 10355.
Start your own casserole club
Who’s to say that you can’t cook for a neighbor anyway? Use the idea of sharing your meals with someone as an excuse to get to know someone who often spends their days alone. You’ll get an immense sense of wellbeing and your neighbor will be extremely grateful for everything you do. Get creative with dishes and try them together, buy a new cookbook and sample each recipe from cover to cover, it could be a great way to discover new food as well as a new friend.
Write to Dorset County and Christchurch Borough Council
Being lonely can be due to being unable to leave the house, so why don’t we make it easier for people. Start a campaign to help older people get better health care services, and have better access to public transport. Getting them out the house could be what they need to improve their standard of living, so write a letter and give them a voice