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Loneliness and Isolation

The feedback received from POPP Wayfinders, Champions and funded projects, as well as information and consultation with public partners, indicates to us that possibly the biggest issue facing older people in Dorset is loneliness and isolation.

Anyone at any age can be lonely - even busy people, even you - whether we are alone or in a group, at work, or at home and within a family.

Loneliness, like confidence and fragility, can come and go - often taking us by surprise.  Some people seek solitude, but few choose to be lonely, primarily because it isn't good for our physical or mental health.

Loneliness is a real health issue.  There are are links with early death.  The risk factor is similar to smoking, and worse than obesity.  It is also associated with poor mental health, and more surprisingly, with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and dementia. JRF_Loneliness_summary (pdf, 364kb) (opens in a new window)

A new Community Development Worker post dedicated to the issue of loneliness and isolation was created in July 2016.  This post is part of the Early Help/POPP Community Development Worker team, and has two main objectives:

  1. To map all activities and opportunities that exist within Dorset that address the issue of loneliness and isolation, producing a directory of befriending groups and services, in whatever form these exist
  2. To further develop a 'Befriending Toolkit', to then support existing and emerging groups to deliver befriending support

What is befriending?

Befriending services are personal, sensitive and broadly flexible to a person's individual needs and they can take on a range of forms.  The outcomes remain generally the same:

  • reduce social isolation
  • reduce emotional loneliness
  • reduce the need for statutory services
  • improve emotional health and wellbeing
  • improve mental health
  • increase self confidence
  • increase self worth

Befriending is about creating and enabling independence and choice.  It should encourage and build confidence, enable people to be as independent as possible, and help reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation, giving  a greater sense of overall wellbeing.

Befriending Directory

There are opportunities for social interaction within communities across Dorset from local groups such as lunch clubs, walking groups, knit and natter and men in sheds schemes.  Many of these have an element of befriending and availability varies.  This Befriending Directory March 2018 (pdf, 749kb) (opens in a new window) focuses on one to one interaction between a befriender and a befriendee for generalised befriending.  It does not include specific health related befriending schemes.

For further information on what is available in your community go to mylifemycare or contact the POPP Community Development Worker - Loneliness and Isolation.

We would like to hear from you if you know of other befriending opportunities that operate in Dorset or nationally, or if you wish to be included in this directory or make an amendment to it, please get in touch. 

If you are interested in setting up a befriending scheme in your village or community, using the Community Commissioning Fund Dorset Early Help/POPP can offer funding of up to £2,000 to seed fund new opportunities identified by local groups.  For further information and suggestions, please contact the POPP Community Development Worker - Loneliness and Isolation.

Would you like to volunteer?

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health.

  • Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety.  The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a positive effect on your overall wellbeing.  Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person.
  • Volunteering makes you happy.  We all like to feel needed and that we have a purpose in life.  The more we give, the happier we feel.
  • Volunteering increases self-confidence.  You are doing something good for others and your community which provides a natural sense of accomplishment.  Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity.
  • Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. If you are an older adult, especially if you have retired or lost a spouse/partner you can find new meaning and direction in your life by helping others.  Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life.
  • I have limited mobility/time/transport - can I still volunteer?  If you have disabilities or chronic health conditions you can still benefit greatly from volunteering.  In fact, research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders will show improvement after volunteering.
  • Whether due to a disability, a lack of transportation, or time constraints, many people choose to volunteer their time via phone or computer.

For more information on volunteering opportunities please either contact one of the befriending schemes listed in the directory or alternatively contact Volunteer Centre Dorset

Volunteering Case Studies

Volunteers are making a real difference to thousands of people's lives in Dorset

Lunch Clubs - Serving the heart of the community in Dorset

A network of more than 120 lunch clubs produce up to 7,000 meals every month, enabling older people to get out and socialise, alleviating isolation and loneliness in many.

One of the most recent lunch clubs - funded through Dorset Early Help/POPP - has been set up in Stour Provost.

Rosie Gall, Early Help/POPP Champion, said she was delighted with the launch: "We were determined to get this club up and running and we are getting people from across many of the local villages including East Stour, Woodville, Todber and Sturminster.  One gentleman who is very deaf and recently bereaved was undecided about coming, but decided to "give it a go".  To see him smiling and happy makes a real difference.  To me, that's what the job is all about."

Volunteer Jackie Grohmann said she had decided to help out because she wanted to support older people: "It's good to know that you can provide a great hot meal and the opportunity for people to get out and meet others in a friendly environment."

Patricia Yonwin runs the year old monthly lunch club at Winfrith Newburgh in Purbeck and she says the rota of 20 volunteers helps bring the community together: "It's a great way of getting to know people and make friendships.  There is a lot of camaraderie, sense of purpose and fellowship among the 50-60 people who attend regularly," she said.

Jane Hutchings, Early Help/POPP Community Development Worker, said volunteers were the lynchpin of the service.  "We have a large number of fantastic volunteers - a great resource across the county - and I would encourage others to set up more lunch clubs."

Councillor Jill Haynes, Dorset County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Health Care and Independence, said: "It is great that volunteers are helping bring people together.  For isolated, older people, going to lunch clubs is about meeting friends, socialising and getting out of their home - not just about a hot meal."

If you are interested in starting a lunch club, Dorset Early Help/POPP can provide support and possible funding of up to £2,000 via the Community Commissioning Fund Contact the POPP Community Development Worker for Access to Food and Nutrition

Helping People with Dementia

People struggling with dementia in Purbeck are receiving a helping hand thanks to funding through Early Help/POPP for the launch of Swanage Area Dementia Friendly Community and Wareham & District Dementia Friendly Community.  Carers and those with dementia will feel confidence within the community knowing there is support and empathy in social and business premises.

Volunteer Jean Gibbs, the lead for Swanage Area Dementia Friendly Community, identified a need for a singing group in Swanage which is now successfully running with initial funding received from Early Help/POPP.

Jean said one of the singing group members is 86 years old and used to sing in a dance band, while another is 68 and has dementia.  They always sit alongside each other - help with the words and just have fun together, she added.  "Everyone can come together and be equal and this is helping people with dementia be equal and accepted within the community.  Music is the most powerful empathetic way of communication.  It needs no complicated formula to touch the inner mind no matter how much people have lost."

Volunteer Annie Carroll, who runs the singing group, said music reaches a different part of the brain for people that had lost the ability to speak.

"It raises energy levels and people go away feeling as if they are engaging with the world", she added.

The Singing for Pleasure Group meets on the second and fourth Thursday at 2pm at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Swanage.

Last year, the Alzheimer's Society (opens in a new window) reported that there were 10,000 people living with the disease in the country with the number growing each year.  One in three people are or will be affected by dementia - either as carers, someone close to us or having the illness ourselves.

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