A Good Reason To Cancel Your Gym Membership

Last night I attended a networking event organised by S.E Alley for social entrepreneurs. S.E Alley organise an open, supportive monthly event to help social entrepreneurs meet each other.
The event was held at Impact Hub Kings Cross, in partnership with MakeSense, ClearlySo and GoodGym. We heard a little about each of these organisations, and were then shown a film the Guardian have produced about GoodGym. Watching the film made me feel quite emotional, and reminded me of all the older people I met when I was working for NBFA Assisting the Elderly.
Click here to watch the film.
After we saw the film Ivo Gormley, Founder of GoodGym, encouraged everyone who has a gym membership to cancel it and join GoodGym instead.
The rest of the evening was filled with informal networking. I met so many interesting people, including Deesha Chandra, Paul Minett, and Maria Trindade.
SE Alley Event
I found the group really friendly and welcoming, so if you are a social entrepreneur in or around London I really recommend checking S.E Alley out. Info on their events are posted on Facebook and Twitter. I am already looking forward to the next event – hope to see you there!

Flexible volunteering projects can help reduce loneliness

There are lots of people who want to help others but often don’t have the time to commit to a regular voluntary role, so it is great to hear about initiatives that let people be flexible in the way they give back to their community.

At a Hub Launchpad event before Christmas we heard from someone working at Casserole Club, which helps people share extra portions of home cooked food with others in their area who are not able to cook for themselves.  By sharing food you help someone enjoy a nutritious meal, but also you might be the only form of social contact that person has all week.  This simple way of helping others in your community is only available in Barnet, Tower Hamlets, and Reigate at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped a lady in Wales – she took to gumtree to offer free meals every Monday for families in need.

Good Gym is another example of how people can help out in their communities without having to commit to regular volunteering. Here people go on organised group runs and work on community projects, so people can get fit while helping others!

Both Casserole Club and Good Gym give people a way to extend or modify their regular activities so they can help people in their communities. They also both help reduce isolation and loneliness that many people experience.

I am sure there are lots of other charities, social enterprises, and community projects that also offer flexible volunteering opportunities. Are you involved with one? Please share your experiences of them in the comments section.

Isolation and Loneliness: not just for Christmas

There are lots of organisations doing great work to help reduce loneliness and isolation, including the Campaign to End Loneliness. Despite the hard work lots of people and organisations put in to ending isolation and loneliness we still have over 800,000 chronically lonely people in England.  Three things really frustrate and infuriate me about this area:

  1. People feel lonely throughout the year, yet it is only in the weeks before Christmas that this issue is highlighted in the media.  It seems when the weather is a bit nicer and Christmas isn’t a few weeks away it doesn’t really matter that people are lonely and isolated.

  2. When people talk about loneliness, they mainly talk about older people.  It is important we do something to help the thousands of older people who are lonely, but what about everyone else who experiences it?  Many people probably don’t even recognise they are lonely as it is a term associated with people aged over 60.

  3. Many organisations do not collaborate or support other organisations working towards similar goals.  I recently spent a morning in Reading asking people to help promote a free coach holiday for isolated older people in the area by putting up a poster in their shop.  I wasn’t asking for money, all I was asking for was for them to display one poster for a couple of weeks.  I wasn’t overly surprised when high street shops and restaurants said no, but I was outraged when charity shops said they couldn’t put a poster in their shop! I can’t understand why a charity would not be willing to help local people find out about a free coach holiday! Having volunteered in a charity shop for several months myself I was really surprised by the lack of enthusiasm and excitement from the volunteers and staff in the shops I visited.  If charities will not support each other, how can we expect individuals and businesses to support us?

How often do you see your parents?

Do you ever feel guilty about how much time you spend with your parents? If so, the See your folks website will probably make you feel even worse! The website uses data from the World Health Organisation to predict how many times you are likely to see your parents before they die.

While this website can be shocking / upsetting at first, it might actually be a really good way of encouraging people to consider how they use their time and what their priorities are.

I don’t think people should feel guilty about how much time they spend with their parents. For various reasons it is not always possible for people to live close to their parents or to see them on a regular basis. It’s important for older people to have a large network of people they can have a nice time with and who they can ask for help.

If everyone helped others and got involved with their local areas we wouldn’t have to worry about how our parents will manage without us living close by. I am hoping A Friend Indeed, the organisation I am working to set up, will help people connect to others in their communities. Everyone has a skill that can help someone else, from gardening to translating documents into English, running errands to doing DIY, cooking and baking to IT support. By helping someone in your community, and receiving support in return, we hope a long-lasting friendship will develop. If you are interested in getting involved please get in touch or like our Facebook page!

Anyone can feel lonely, not just older people

800,000 people are lonely in the UK.  Contrary to stereotypes, loneliness is not restricted just to older people.  A BBC survey found 48% of adults feel varying degrees of loneliness. People can feel lonely because of bereavement, illness, redundancy, and also after moving house or starting school.

Susan Allen, Programme Support Officer at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, recently wrote a great blog looking at the causes of loneliness. I particularly like two points made in Susan’s blog:

  • People do not always recognise loneliness
  • Don’t judge people based on their age – not all older people need others to look after them!

Not one older person I have spoken to through my work has described themselves as ‘lonely’. It is not a term people use to describe themselves, probably because it has a stigma attached to it. This can make it difficult for organisations to know who is in need of their help.

This week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation launched a free resource pack to help people consider what causes loneliness and reduce it, which is a positive development in stopping people from being lonely across the country.

 

I can’t imagine not leaving my home for a whole week!

How many friends, family, and neighbours have you had contact with today? Living close to friends and family in a friendly community, I have spoken to three today so far.  It has been reported that 17% of older people have less than weekly, and 11% less than monthly, contact with family, friends and neighbours.

6% of older people (nearly 600,000 people) leave their house once a week or less. A recent study found that isolation was linked with a 26% higher death risk over seven years. Despite meeting and speaking to isolated older people every day at work, I still find it shocking to think of so many older people in this country living in isolation.

This video by vInspired is great at showing how some of the isolated older people in the UK are feeling, and how valuable a supportive community is:

 

Lonely no more- why I’m setting up a new enterprise

Generation image

In a speech today, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that it is a source of “national shame” that as many as 800,000 people in England are “chronically lonely”. I couldn’t agree more.  Having worked for a small national charity supporting isolated older people for over 3 ½ years, I have met thousands of isolated older people across the country. The effects of loneliness and isolation on health are now widely recognised, so the question now is, what can we do about this?

I find it incredibly sad that the older people I have met do not have a social and support network that my parents have (mainly due to being part of a large extended family). I grew up in a community with a mix of ages of people. Having older people around was normal and I respected them. I expect that this is one of the reasons I ended up working for a charity in this area. Now people tend to keep to themselves, and not get to know their neighbours, and so there is limited interaction between people in their communities. As a member of Rotaract, an organisation for young community-minded people, I have seen firsthand the difference being part of a community makes to peoples lives.

Intergenerational relationships can be beneficial for people from all generations. Companionship between young adults and older people can help strengthen a community. Some older people have lived in their community all their lives and are such an important part of what makes it special. For economic reasons, a lot of young people neither live where they grew up nor live where they work, which means that it can be harder to get involved in a community.

These are the reasons why I have decided to set up an organisation that helps young adults and older people meet and form friendships. A Friend Indeed will match people together based on people’s interests, location, and availability. Bringing people together with others from their local community, A Friend Indeed will help positive long-term intergenerational relationships be formed.

I feel excited and a little scared about starting my own organisation. Still in the planning stages,  I am looking to meet with a wide range of people in the coming weeks to discuss this project. I have been reading a number of inspiring blog posts giving start up tips, including this by Ali Golds. Today I feel like I have taken a massive step forward towards my new life – I have been accepted on to the Public Service Launchpad scholarship! This amazing opportunity will give me the chance to meet and collaborate with others looking to find solutions to social problems. I can’t wait to get started!