You will know that a major local and national concern has been how to reduce high levels of social isolation and loneliness, especially amongst older people. It is estimated that around 10% of people over 50 are socially isolated, ie they do not speak to other human beings for days on end. This situation is often exacerbated by illness, disability and loss of a partner. Apart from personal unhappiness, this situation can lead to mental and physical decline. A further 10% or so are in danger of slipping into this critical state. These percentages increase as people move into their 70s and 80s.
Community Navigators Bristol
This project is funded for three years by Bristol Ageing Better and is divided geographically into three areas across the city: South, Central and East. The project, which is led by Bristol Community Health, will include paid workers, but is also looking for volunteers. The project aims are to re-connect older people with their community and also to make it less likely that others will become disconnected in the first place.
The project has been described as a ‘signposting and support service’. BS3 is relatively rich in community organisations compared to some other parts of the city. Several Bedminster groups are already doing good work in both signposting, supporting and in offering activities and have been doing so for several years. But one can always do more and we know that, despite this good work, some people in BS3 are still missing out.
Hopefully, the Community Navigator scheme will also link to work being done to link the five – soon to amalgamate into one – BS3 GP surgeries to community organisation through activities such as ‘Social Prescribing’. In fact, Navigators offers a great opportunity to coordinate existing work and raise its effectiveness to new levels.
The project began in April, but the early months have been involved in preparatory activities. The public launch will be in September.
What would volunteers do?
This can be quite varied, but it may involve visiting older people in their homes, getting to know them and offering advise on what’s going on in the area. Of course, it’s not usually as easy as ‘why don’t you pop along to a zumber group next Friday or to Tuesday’s walking group?’
Over the years we’ve found that there are three main barriers to participation:
1. lack of knowledge of the range of activities, despite the fact that community centres are full of leaflets, LinkAge’s excellent booklet and other info sources;
2. transport. Even where social activities are close by, walking may be a problem. Bus routes don’t always go where you want. Volunteers can help here by offering lifts or just to accompany someone on foot, at least for the first couple of times.
3. lack of confidence. This is a key factor in many cases as many people who find themselves socially isolated have often lost all confidence in their ability to deal with other people, especially in new situations. Depression, often quite deep, is frequently both a cause and a result of dropping out of society. Only when trust and personal confidence is built up will some people be prepared to risk new social contacts.
There will be some initial training for volunteers and its hoped that people may be able to offer 2 or 3 hours per week. Are you up for it? Do you know others who might be?
What happens after three years?
There’s always a problem when the money runs out, but hopefully a stronger, more sustainable service will be in place well before 2020. It’s part of GBCP’s job to see that that is the case.
The contact person is Gemma on 0117 9002189 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Also an application form and more background information is attached. Community Navigator Role Profile & Community Navigator – Volunteer_Application_Form
But, the world’s not all full of good guys
Attached is a warning about a scam directed at older people. It was sent to us by Simon who chairs the Bedminster Business Improvement District* board. He came across it yesterday via a victim in his shop. Of course, someone totally on their own with no readily available support from nearby relatives or friends is more likely to be panicked into this scam, so this also relates to social isolation.
*don’t forget that the Bedminster BID’s Diversity Day event is next Sunday (20 August). The Cannon Street end of North Street will be closed to traffic and given over to music, eating and general fun. What a great way to keep in touch with other people in your community!!