The Golden Years. Retirement. It’s something millions of people look forward to after a lifetime of work. A chance to finally indulge your pleasures and pastimes.
Unfortunately, that is not how it turns out for many: more than one million older people in the UK say they feel lonely or isolated most of the time or all the time.
Loneliness and isolation has a huge impact on health and wellbeing.
It also has a significant impact on the demand for social services.
Sufferers are more likely to visit their GP, use higher doses of medication and are even more likely to have a trip or fall. They are also more likely to undergo an early entry into a residential or nursing home.
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
Research shows that older residents who take in more health and independence maintaining behaviours are less likely to feel isolated and more likely to feel that their community is a good one to grow old in.
Our idea was to create an annual ‘Full of Life’ fair, to celebrate the role of older people within our communities.
It was a chance for the most isolated residents to socialise and learn about what the borough has to offer.
We knew that one event would not put an end to loneliness and isolation on its own, so the event aimed to put people in touch with the groups and services that are out there for them.
Introducing them to a network of support services that they may not have otherwise known existed.
One of our biggest challenges was identifying those older people most in need of help. Many of the residents might suffer in silence, not accessing council services, so targeted publicity to get the message to them was vital.
On the day, 1800 senior residents attended and there were nearly 100 stalls from Council and community services across Richmond, activities and refreshments. We also laid on a shuttle bus to allow easy access for all.
Following the event nearly all the organizations saw a rise in engagement with their services, and many requested to be automatically put on the list for future events.
We are now hopeful that the ‘Full of Life’ fair will help reduce the isolation and loneliness problem across more boroughs and for more and more people each year.