NEWSLETTER (51:17) – on Community Navigators 

Social Isolation and Loneliness of Older People

Over the last few years, many groups in BS3 have looked at the issue of social isolation and loneliness of older people.   Why do some people over 50 (an estimated 11,000 in Bristol) become socially isolated?   How do you return someone to the community when they have become depressed, withdrawn and have lost confidence?   What measures do you need to take to make it less likely that people will become isolated in the first place?

A new project ‘Community Navigators’ is due to be launched at Bristol’s Celebrating Age Festival (23 September) at City Hall which will help to tackle this issue.

How will it work?

Community Navigators Bristol offers free signposting and support to older people who want to feel less isolated and more involved in their local area.   Friendly, trained ‘navigators’ will make contact with older people, get to know them and share information about what’s happening where they live.   Whether it’s meeting people, becoming more active, rekindling old hobbies, volunteering or learning something new, the community navigator can point the older person in the right direction.

If the person needs extra support, the community navigator can come along with them when they try something for the first time.   They can also support the older person with any concerns that they have about getting out and about – including safety, transport or money worries – by connecting them with other community and health services to tackle these problems.

The service provides short-term support for older people over 50 and is completely free.   It is available to people in their home or via phone appointments.  Community Navigators is funded by Bristol Ageing Better and run by a partnership of trusted local organisations.

Why is it a problem?

“Loneliness is thought to be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day – and according to Age UK there are 1.2 million older people in England who are chronically lonely,” said Laura Thacker and Gemma Holden, the two Community Navigator Coordinators for the Bristol-wide service.   “Connecting people with their community can give huge benefits to long-term health and wellbeing.   We hope that through our network of local community navigators we’ll be able to transform the lives of people who are currently feeling isolated from their own communities.”

Simone Davis, one of the service’s Community Navigators, said: “I’ve seen first-hand the devastating toll loneliness can have on older people, both physically and mentally.   But I’m looking forward to being part of a new service that will find and support people at an earlier stage.   I’ll be able to take time to find out what really matters to the people I’m working with.   We’ll work together to find ways to make it easier for them to get out and build their own networks of support.”

How to get support

If you are over 50 and you’re feeling lonely or isolated get in touch with Community Navigators Bristol.   You can also make a referral on behalf of someone you know.

  • North Bristol: contact Laura on 0117 9515751 or laura.t@northbristoladvice. org.uk
  • Central, East or South Bristol: contact Gemma on 0330 838 2588 (local rate number) or gemma.holden1@nhs.net.
  • Visit www.communitynavigators.org.uk

About the Community Navigators Bristol Partnership

Community Navigators Bristol is funded by Bristol Ageing Better, a programme dedicated to reducing isolation and loneliness among older people in Bristol.   It is run by a partnership of trusted local organisations combining their community expertise: Bristol Community Health and North Bristol Advice Centre (lead partners), Ambition Lawrence Weston, Avonmouth Community Centre, Barton Hill Settlement, The Care Forum, Shirehampton Community Action Forum, Southmead Development Trust and Southville Community Development Association.

How to Join In?

If you would like to be a volunteer for the Community Navigators Bristol service, please get in touch via the details above. Get in touch too if your organisation would like to help in some way.

1. BS3 Helping Others

This is one of many examples of groups in BS3 that are already helping to combat loneliness.   Amongst other things, it is a Facebook page set up to recruit people willing to contribute time and energy to the local community.

It also meets on Tuesday mornings (from 10.15am) at the Tobacco Factory on North Street as a support group for volunteers and to let people know about ways in which they can ‘help others’.    Information about local opportunities is shared and often the group is joined by representatives from local community and voluntary organisations.

From 11.15am the emphasis of the meeting changes to focus on volunteering in Care Homes.   There are opportunities to talk to and befriend residents (these sometimes have short-term memory loss).   You won’t be thrown in unguided without support and BS3 Helping Others will deal with DBH checks.

At both meetings, there’s time for a cuppa and a chat with friends.

An example of work with Care Homes is the Wednesday and Saturday morning quiz.   A small group of volunteers prepares and administers this bit of fun, as well as just chatting with Care Home residents who may not have talked to anyone from the outside for a long time.

Find out more about BS3 Helping Others via their Facebook, by popping along to one of their Tobacco Factory sessions or by contact Catherine on 077330 68680 or catherineliddle@yahoo.com

2. Inter-generational work

You may have seen a recent TV programme showing meetings between people in a North Bristol Care Home and children from the nursery at Southville Centre.   The general conclusion was that both generations gained mightily from this contact.

As a follow on, Southville Centre has built links with the Bupa Amerind Grove Care Home on Raleigh Road and now takes 12 children from the nursery to visit every week.   The Care Home residents seem to enjoy the visitors and nursery staff report that the children’s social skills and personal confidence has increased with contact with older people.

3. Bedminster Social Club

This informal, self-organising group started in 2016.    It meets once a week for Coffee and Chat at Mezzaluna Café on West Street and has lunch in various places twice a month.   Some members also team up to go for trips within Bristol or further afield.    Most of the members are in their 60s and 70s.   Several have full-time caring responsibilities and are looking for an occasional break.   Others have recently lost partners, had family members move away or are new to the area.    For more details contact benbarker@blueyonder.co.uk .

4. Street Activity

Most older people live on a street somewhere, so activity around, say, Street Parties, Playing Out and developing a community garden can be used to let neighbours of all ages get to know each other.    Even a cheerful ‘hello’ helps and older people can be useful as garden advisors and takers in of parcels.

5. LinkAge Booklet. 

Every few months LinkAge publishes a booklet covering many of the activities available in Bedminster, Southville and Ashton.   It’s called ‘What’s on for over 55s’.    These books are in most community centres and many public places, but contact Fiona Martin on 0117 305 2365 or fiona.martin@stmonicatrust. org.uk if you can’t find one.

Of course, these are just a sample of the projects in BS3 that seek to support older people in general, but isolated or potentially isolated ones, in particular.

Please tell GBCP NEWSLETTER if your organisation is making a contribution to reducing social isolation and loneliness.   And, of course, this is not just an issue for older people.

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