October Learning Update

11 Oct 2018

Engaging older people in your community: sight loss, hearing loss, dual sensory loss and experiences of substance misuse

Across the BAB progamme, we want our projects to constantly be reflecting on who they are engaging with and who they are finding it more difficult to reach.

To support this, we held training earlier in 2018 looking at how to better reach and engage older people with sight loss, hearing loss, dual sensory loss or an experience of substance misuse. We recently held a follow-up reflection session with staff and volunteers, recapping this learning and providing the opportunity for one-to-one questions.

This month's Learning Update shares the key learning from these trainings - read the full learning report here.

The first step is to avoid the assumption that everyone engaging with your project has similar life experiences or communication needs. Your own subconscious stereotypes may lead you to make this assumption, for example if you are working with a group of older Muslim women you may not consider the possibility of someone having a history of substance misuse, and therefore may inadvertently make them feel judged or unwelcome.

Similarly, if possible it is best to ask people in advance if they have any access requirements, but be aware that many will be reluctant to tell you or may not think of themselves in this way. Instead of singling them out or asking them to admit in front of everyone that they need you to communicate differently, try asking them one-to-one by phrasing the question in a more practical way, such as whether the font size is ok for them.

Read more tips below or in the full learning report.

We had great feedback from these trainings and hope they are useful in supporting our projects to reach a diverse range of older people. What other groups of older people do you find it hard to reach or engage with? Let us know by emailing clairechivers@ageukbristol.org.uk

Best wishes,
BAB Programme Manager Carly Urbanski

Confidence will be affected by specific factors related to their life history

Someone may be very confident communicating in a one-to-one setting but then lose confidence when with a group of new people.

They may fear being judged by the group or having nothing in common due to different life experiences.

They may also worry about not being able to keep up with the group conversation. Individuals may need additional support and encouragement to overcome these anxieties and branch out of their comfort zone.

Sight loss, hearing loss and experience of substance misuse all have an emotional impact. For example anxiety can be intensified by feelings of jealousy, disgust, frustration, shame or self-hatred, which will all affect an individual’s confidence and willingness to engage with your project. For those with deteriorating sight or hearing, this may be experienced as a feeling of loss.

Feelings of anxiety or reluctance to engage may also be affected by individuals having a previous negative experience with services or community groups.

Read more about this topic in our learning report
Practical communication tips to get you started

1) If a person is hard of hearing, make sure you have their attention before starting to speak. Good ways to attract their attention include visual clues or touching them on the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow. Maintain eye contact and keep your mouth visible.

2) Think about your positioning in the room. Try not to stand in front of a window, TV screen or busy doorway.

3) Be aware of background noise. This includes noise from other sources but also echos in the room when multiple people speak at once.

4) If someone does not hear you, always repeat it or find another way to communicate with them until they understand what you said. Never say “it doesn’t matter”.

5) Slow the pace of the conversation and build in regular communication breaks, as it can be tiring to keep up with what is being said and these breaks will benefit everyone.

6) Know how to book communication support, for example interpreters, lip speakers or note takers.

7) Proactively offer a variety of communication options in addition to the usual email and telephone details. For example, instant messaging or video conferencing. When giving verbal instructions, provide visual cues as well.

Read more about this topic in our learning report

Learning announcements

1) The BAB partnership meeting will take place on Thursday 1st November at Triodos Bank from 11am -1pm. The agenda includes a chance to share your learning about the ways older people are involved in decision making in your organisation. The meeting is open to representatives from all BAB partners and is a fantastic opportunity to get up to date with the programme's activities, find out about recent work done by partners and network with other organisations. Register your place.

2) The next meeting of our research reading group will take place at 10am on 21st November in Dom's Coffee House. We will be discussing this piece of research which looks at barriers to social participation. Meetings are fun and informal, read our blog about our previous meeting here. If you are interested in coming along, email clairechivers@ageukbristol.org.uk

3) Three workshops will be taking place in November to share the findings of the 'Older Men at the Margins' research project conducted by the University of Bristol into older men and loneliness. The three workshops focus on gay men, those in rural/urban areas and those who are carers. Book your place using the links above, or email omam-project@bristol.ac.uk if you have any questions.

Learning from projects outside Bristol

As well as what we've learned here in Bristol, we'll be sharing learning from other members of the Ageing Better network and beyond:

A learning blog from the Ageing Better programme in Camden about starting conversations with older people in the street.

The Shed Effect: Stories from Men in Sheds projects in Scotland

Learning from the British Red Cross about 'community connector' schemes across the country (including social prescribing, community navigators and community link worker roles).

Interesting further reading

The findings of the recent BBC Loneliness Experiment can be read here, or you can listen to a three-part radio series which explores these results in more depth.

A report from the Royal Society of Public Health about how attitudes to ageing affect health and wellbeing.

Inspired by the work of the Jo Cox Foundation, 'A Life Less Lonely' is a book which shares stories about loneliness and isolation in an attempt to break down the stigma.
Do you have any useful learning about engaging older people with sight loss, hearing loss or experience of substance misuse? Let us know!

Send your learning about this or other topics to Claire (BAB Learning & Monitoring Officer) at clairechivers@ageukbristol.org.uk or 0117 928 1539.

Call us: 0117 928 1539

© 2019 Age UK Bristol.
A charity limited by guarantee. Registered no 2984207.
Registered Charity no. 1042548

Somerset Design - Supporting Charities in Bristol