By David Gledhill, Marketing and Communications Officer.
Ageing Well is now three years into its six year programme and whilst the results so far have been incredible, there is still much to do.
I circulated what I called a celebration crib sheet to our team last week and the feedback, from the very people that have delivered these results, has been stunning.
Because they are at the sharp end, they do not take the time to stand back and consider the overall impact of what they are doing.
They know on an individual basis how they are changing lives, because people often write to them to thank them and some of those thank you’s are heartbreaking.
Take the woman who wrote to one of the wellbeing co-ordinators last week after a visit to one of her clients.
“Just to say thank you so much for meeting with me yesterday. It was so nice to have a good conversation, and it was the longest conversation I have had with anyone this year. I spend 95% of my time alone, and the only people that I speak to are health professionals – and my doctor was quite disturbed by that fact.”
Sadly that woman is not alone, and that is why when the wellbeing coordinators and the community builders get to work they can help reduce loneliness and isolation – which has massive repercussions in people’s lives.
So far our community builders have worked with 1370 isolated older people, and wellbeing coordinators have worked with 539 more. That is a staggering 2000 isolated over 50-year olds.
As a result of those interventions, people that we have engaged with who described themselves as lonely fell from 59 to 29%. That’s a big change.
The number of people that went on to meet up daily with friends increased from 39 to 51% and those that met up weekly increased from 64 to 76%. And that make a massive difference in people’s lives.
I have lost count of the number of stories I have heard that begin with the words “It has changed my life,” or “I was at the lowest ebb of my life, and thankfully that is now all behind me.”
It may well be that the person has become lonely and isolated because they have lost their lifelong partner – their best friend, confidant and social buddy.
Or it may be that they have retired and suddenly discovered that outside their busy working lives they did not know as many people as they thought.
The repercussions are far reaching – not just loneliness and isolation, but depression and misery and for some they think for the first time in their lives of ending it all.
But there is hope, and we are seeing that hope blossom across Torbay with doctors visits (they are so often the go-to place for lonely people) reduced by nearly half from 6.8 times a year on average to just 3.5 times a year.
And it goes further – hospital admittances were also almost halved – reduced from 1.75 to 0.65 times a year.
Both of those facts represent not just a massive saving in heartache, but in real hard cash. No wonder people are sitting up and taking notice.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, we have a long way to go because by the end of this Big Lottery Funded programme we aim to help a total of 6000 older people to feel more connected to friends, family and their communities.
We also intend to give 4750 older people higher personal and service aspirations for later life as well as ensuring a 20% increase in the number of people who celebrate ageing and value older people.
So, if you are reading this and recognise that you may be one of those people who needs a helping hand, or know someone who does, please do not hesitate.
This Big Lottery funding is for you. This project has already helped lots of people and there are mini celebrations of that fact taking place across the Bay.
So go on – pick up the phone 01803 212638 or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.