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Your Later Life 2021

How community projects are helping tackle loneliness and isolation

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Dr Chris Manning

MRCGP, Men’s Sheds

Our health is not simply the absence of illness; it is a positive state in its own right. Meaningful social interaction is proven to be vital in combating loneliness and maintaining our wellbeing.

When my younger brother died three years ago, preceded by my mother a few months earlier, I was very unsure what to do and sank into an episode of depression (whilst still on medication). I knew I had to do something real and meaningful to lift myself out of it. Having read about Men Sheds in Australia, I decided to set one up in an old church hall near where I live.

It is perfectly possible to feel very down and for life still to matter. There have been many challenges – especially COVID-19 – yet addressing these has brought some 20 of us much closer together and we are now ready to expand further into our community.

All in it together

Our motto is “Benefitting our community through meeting, making and mending together.” There are so many human ‘conditions’ that benefit from company, and activities that give meaning to life and protect health.

Many of our woes can be dissolved through meaningful activities, banter and the company of others and so we do our best to ensure that people are able to find their sweet spot. This might be quietly weeding; noisily turning something on the lathe; chatting to someone who has brought in an item for repair and much else.

There are so many human ‘conditions’ that benefit from company, and activities that give meaning to life and protect health.

Social prescribing

As a GP years ago and before the introduction of printers, I wrote ‘social prescriptions’ by hand on the script itself – advice for diet, exercise, relevant charities, mutual support groups and local/national charities. Now there is a National Academy of Social Prescribing to lead on both research and activities that enable people to be ‘signposted’ to relevant help and support.

Most recently, University College London launched a call for research into loneliness and self-isolation. Together, the UK Men’s Sheds Association (UKMSA) and the University of East Anglia bid successfully to research this issue in the context of Sheds. This will be instrumental in informing UKMSA strategy and operations; Shed organisers at local level and those to whom we all relate to in our various communities. It will also build on the recent research published by the Scotland Men’s Shed Association and lever Sheds into the ‘community conversation’ across the UK – without Sheds losing their soul in the process.

The UCL project has been funded by the Loneliness & Social Isolation in Mental Health Research Network, which is funded by UK Research and Innovation (Grant reference: ES/S004440/1) and their support is gratefully acknowledged. Any views expressed here are those of the project investigators and do not necessarily represent the views of the Loneliness & Social Isolation in Mental Health Research Network or UKRI.

Men’s Sheds as an alternative healthcare route? A qualitative study – Scottish Men's Sheds Association

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Home » Lifestyle » How community projects are helping tackle loneliness and isolation

Make Hourglass 24/7 and challenge the unthinkable

Veronica Gray

DCEO & Director of Policy, Hourglass

It’s unthinkable that an estimated 2,700,000 older people are abused in the UK each year. This abuse could be financial, physical, sexual, psychological or through neglect.

Hourglass, the UK’s only charity focused exclusively on elder abuse and safer ageing is leading the way in making this unthinkable issue as unacceptable as child abuse or animal cruelty. It’s all too easy to look the other way and even easier to see this as someone else’s problem.

There is a common misconception that domestic abuse ends at age 60, as one in three people in the UK believe that acts of domestic violence directed at older people don’t constitute abuse. There’s also confusion about what ‘elder abuse’ is.

So this year, Hourglass refocused its efforts on a safer ageing agenda. This ensures older people subjected to abuse, harm, intimidation, scams, or fraud know that Hourglass is there to listen, advise and support. After all, we are all going to get older and we believe everyone should be able to age safely.

Hourglass runs the UK’s only 9am to 5pm elder abuse helpline, instant messenger and text service. It has also launched the first online Knowledge Bank to further expand access to the charity and information on the abuse of older people and safer ageing.

Sadly, this unique helpline and messaging service are only open during office hours and we desperately need to make this a 24/7 operation. We get almost 10,000 calls a year but nearly 20% of these cannot currently be answered as they are outside working hours. You can help Hourglass be there for every out of hours caller, it could literally be a life saver.

You can support the 24/7 campaign by making a donation www.wearehourglass.org.uk/donate

Or by texting SAFER to 70460 to donate £10.

Texts cost £10 plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about our work via telephone and SMS. If you’d like to give £10 but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text SAFERNOINFO to 70460.

We need you to stand up and be counted. We need to be 24/7.

Hourglass is the working name of Hourglass (Safer Ageing), a charity registered in England and Wales (reg. no: 1140543), and also in Scotland (reg. no: SC046278). Hourglass (Safer Ageing) is registered as a company in England and Wales under number 07290092.

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