This week the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness shared a think-piece titled Connect for a Kinder Tomorrow – New Approaches to Loneliness. They asked organisations across the country to share the piece and welcomed responses to it – so BAB Programme Director Adam Rees has done just that.
In May we hosted Bristol’s second Loneliness Summit - to raise awareness of the Jo Cox Commission, but also to check in on the issue that is at the heart of Bristol Ageing Better. The summit celebrated the work of BAB partners in testing ways of tackling loneliness and isolation in older people as well as acknowledging that loneliness isn’t an issue which only affects the older generation.
In my welcome to the summit delegates, I told my story of moving from Cardiff to take this job and my lack of connections, friendships and support in Bristol. It was scary and intimidating at first, but over time I build great friendships and met people who would offer help if I needed it. The think piece rightly points out that we live in a society where everyday connections are reducing, and it is increasingly more difficult to have meaningful conversations regardless of age.
When we first launched BAB we shared the fantastic Aardman Animation and while the voices came from older people, the stories could have come from people of any age. We’re all likely to feel disconnected at some point in our lives, so tackling social isolation is good for everyone in society.
Our recent Age Friendly Bristol work has identified that what can improve a city for older people can improve a city for most people. We focus on working with older people, but our learning and evaluation is shared with any interested parties.
We’re spearheading a bid to have Bristol officially recognised as an Age Friendly City by the World Health Organisation, and to do that we’re collecting offers from organisations around the city. By sharing what your organisation is doing to make Bristol a great place to grow old, you could help to bolster our chances of achieving Age Friendly status.
The Jo Cox Commission’s think piece says: “As families, loneliness can rob us of perspective and cause our closest bonds– and so our safety nets – to fray, leaving us cut out and cut off. In our communities, it can undermine integration as people disengage.”
In essence, loneliness is toxic – it has negative effects on our physical and mental health no matter our age or personal situation.
Through the projects that we fund, BAB aims to foster quality connections between people in various ways that put older people firmly in the driving seat. Our Community Development for Older People project empowers and engages older people in their communities with activities designed for and by them.
A striking conclusion from the commission is that there are so many good and exciting actions going on across the country, but we also need strategic leadership and coordination to improve our tactics for ending loneliness. From central government to local authorities, businesses and community groups, we all have a responsibility to make our world a friendlier place for older people.
The article written by the Jo Cox Commission suggests that we should, as individuals, aim for five a day in terms of meaningful conversations. I don’t know about you, but when I started to count my last few days of conversations, those that didn’t involve work or family duties were quite limited.
I am personally going to try and meet this 5 a day target, not only for myself but also to offer a conversation to someone else.
The article is a fascinating read, and you can now read the full report that the commission has produced. We’re thrilled to be working alongside so many other organisations to help tackle loneliness and isolation in Bristol and beyond, and sharing our learning along the way.
If you’re interested in becoming a BAB partner or making an offer for Age Friendly Bristol, get in touch with us on 0117 928 1539 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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