Building bridges for older people

An innovative service which helps combat social isolation among older people in Edinburgh has received an £800,000 funding boost.

The Community Connecting project works with volunteers helping older people gain increased confidence by getting out and about in their local communities.

Examples include using public transport, visiting parks, trips out to local shops, enrolling in art classes or bowling clubs and going to lunch clubs.

By encouraging older people to get involved in activities outside their home, it helps their own mental and social wellbeing, as well as reducing the strain on more traditional services provided by health organisations.

Community Connecting has already been successfully piloted in various parts of the Capital and will now be rolled out across the city.

At a meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council today (28 June) councillors approved the awarding of contracts for two organisations to provide a service until 2014.

Health leader Councillor Ricky Henderson said: "Feeling lonely can be a significant issue for older people especially if they live on their own or do not have a readily available network of support.

"This is a fantastic service which encourages older people to link in with their local community. It reduces their feeling of loneliness, increases their confidence and gives them a choice in the activities they want to do.  

"Research also shows that if they lead more active lives then there is less pressure put on more traditional care services provided by health organisations."

Mary, from south Edinburgh, and Craigie, from west Edinburgh, have both benefited from the service provided by Health in Mind.

Mary said: "I couldn't go out before as I have arthritis but hopefully the future is now brighter. It gives me something to look forward to, which means an awful lot to me. This is a wonderful service to be available to people that are always at home." 

Craigie, said: "I was on my own in the house which had nobody else in it apart from me. I am enjoying our wee trips out - that's something I couldn't do by myself."

Recent success include:

  • A woman who suffered a fall on a bus and lost her confidence to use public transport to continue meeting her friend at bingo. Thanks to help from a volunteer she now travels on her own again
  • A woman who was feeling isolated has now gained confidence to enrol in a local bowling club and visit her hairdresser every fortnight
  • Following a period of depression a housebound service user in a sheltered housing complex is now able to leave her flat again with the aim of visiting the coffee shop at the end of the road.

Additional information:

The four contracts have been awarded to Health in Mind and Places for People.

Service users are referred to the service and volunteers will often work with the person for up to four months.

Anyone interested in volunteering as part of the Community Connecting service should contact Health in Mind on 0131 225 8508 or Places for People on 0131 659 4702.

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