Every Christmas there are stories around older people and how you can get involved to help a lonely elderly person by volunteering. Usually this means befriending, either by phone or in person. Whilst having a volunteer come round for a cup of tea and a natter can be great - even life-changing for some people – befriending relies on referrals and organisations to establish these connections. And if visits are in person, they require a volunteer who lives within relatively easy reach of the older person’s home.
WHAT THE RESEARCH TELLS US
In a UK-wide study of more than 2,000 people in August 2016, data collected by One Poll showed that feeling lonely where you live is not just an older person’s issue. Almost 30% of respondents aged 18-34 admitted to feeling isolated, compared to 14% of those aged over 55. Further data from a private social network called Nextdoor shows that the overwhelming majority of British people (69%) crave a sense of community, believing it would make their neighbourhoods feel friendlier and safer, and help reduce crime.
In Birmingham, almost 57,000 people aged 65 plus will be living alone by 2020.
We’re urging people in Birmingham - citizens of all ages, and neighbours from north and south - to take an active role in supporting their communities. By getting to know who lives next door, you can exchange advice and recommendations, talk about things happening in your community, and how you can get involved, together.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
We can all play an active role in tackling loneliness and isolation simply by interacting more with our own neighbours. That’s what we’re looking for: for people to pluck up the courage to knock on their neighbour’s door when it’s not ‘the done thing’. The more people do it, the more conventional it will become. Greeting someone on the street, knocking on a neighbour’s door to say, ‘Hello, how are you?’, meeting at the pub, changing a light bulb, sharing DIY skills, gardening together, or simply stopping for a cuppa.
What we don’t want is for people to look for opportunities to get involved over Christmas, and forget all about it come January. We need to look after our neighbours all year round.
- Be kind and caring
- Send Christmas cards to the neighbours – a great opportunity to show your neighbourliness, and if you have children, get them involved as homemade cards are even better!
- Organise a community litter-pick
- Bake something tasty and share it with your neighbours
- Organise a neighbourly get-together. It could be at your local pub, park or library, at your own house or in your garden
- Ask a neighbour for help - or if they could teach you a skill such as DIY, crafting or baking. Older people have honed their skills over decades, so take advantage of their expertise!
- Check if a neighbour needs a hand with anything around the house: taking the bins out, gardening, or changing a light bulb
- Tell your neighbours about Route2Wellbeing, an online guide to voluntary and community health and wellbeing activity in Birmingham
- Say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ – whether it’s in the street, in a queue, at the shops, or through the window!
- Read books! According to a report published by the think tank Demos and commissioned by national charity The Reading Agency, one way to combat loneliness is by reading. The report finds that reading books significantly reduces feelings of loneliness for people aged 18-64, and that reading is also significantly associated with having close relationships.
- Download social network apps such as Nextdoor UK which recently launched their campaign #HelloNeighbour, asking neighbours across the UK to help out a neighbour to help tackle loneliness
- Assume that an older person is in need. Just like you, we all want to feel independent
- Barge in on your neighbours. They need to agree to have you over. While most people will love the chance to get to know their neighbours, sometimes it’s easier for people to engage if there’s something organised, such as an informal get-together, an open house at New Year’s Eve, or a litter pick.
- Play music too loud late in the evenings, or throw litter on the street. Respecting your neighbours is part of what it means to be a good neighbour.
Can you think of something to get your street talking?