Vintage vibes

A new service in Edinburgh, called Vintage Vibes, is tackling isolation and loneliness among the Scottish capital’s over-60s, and has already had a great response to its fresh approach. Here, Su Millar, Chief Executive of the lead partner behind the partnership, LifeCare Edinburgh, explains how it came about and why it’s working.

Ali and Annie

Volunteer Ali with VIP Annie, who lives by herself and isn’t able to get out and about as much as she used to. Ali visits with his wee dog Vinnie and have formed a lovely friendship.

What to do about loneliness? That’s a question we raised several years ago in the realisation that many of Edinburgh’s over-60s were in desperate need of more social contact and integration with their communities. In fact, one study revealed that our city’s older people were the loneliest in the UK.

As a provider of social care, including outreach services and day clubs for frail, elderly and dementia patients, we knew that we wanted to be doing something to help those who have few visitors or contact with family members.

That was back in 2012, and we set on the road to finding a solution. Along the way we have carried out extensive research and consultation with the wider Edinburgh community, set up a partnership with The Broomhouse Centre, which was already running a befriending service for the elderly, and successfully won Big Lottery funding for the first four years of our new service. Vintage Vibes was set up in late 2015, and officially launched in March 2016.

Why we’re different

Vintage Vibes uses friendly volunteers from all walks of life, of all ages, and from all around Edinburgh to offer good company and new friendships. It’s that simple. But where we differ from existing services is that we are very bespoke to the needs of the people who are feeling isolated and lonely. We call them our VIPs, and when they are referred to our service we sit down and ask them what they’d like to get from it.

Our two service co-ordinators work hard to recruit, train and support the volunteers, and spend time matching them up with a VIP in a way that’s going to suit both parties. And so far, we’re delighted that it’s been so successful.

We aren’t just offering someone to come and visit the VIP in their home; we offer the chance to get people out and about, whether they want to go to a café, the cinema, art gallery, or for a walk. We are looking at friendship pools to get folks together with a shared interest, and recruit dog owners as volunteers so they can take their pets along when they meet up with their VIP.

This approach means we are attracting volunteers who might not otherwise want to get involved – and among the 60 we’ve recruited so far we have young parents who want a grandparent figure in their life, business owners and full-time workers, students at university who love the chance to listen to stories, and retired/mature people who perhaps feel a bit lonely themselves. The one thing they have in common is a desire to give a little back to society and help make someone’s day a bit brighter.

Friendly approach

The response to Vintage Vibes has been very, very positive and we are now getting a steady flow of referrals from across the city, with new friendships being set up each week. People like that we look fresh and innovative, fun, friendly and approachable.

As more and more people realise the devastation that chronic loneliness and isolation can have on people’s health and wellbeing, and as more solutions are sought to remedy the issue, we are delighted to be involved in helping spread new friendships across Edinburgh. Good company never gets old, and Vintage Vibes is proof of that.

Vintage Vibes, Life Care, Edinburgh. 22 November 2015. Picture by JANE BARLOW © Jane Barlow 2015 {all rights reserved} m: 07870 152324

For more information on what we’re doing, you can visit our website at