The Office of National Statistics announced today that those in older age groups value friendships and local associations more than younger people (64% of those aged 50 to 54 to over 80% of those aged 70 and over). This may not be surprising; those in the younger age group are still likely to be engaged in social networks via their workplaces. So how do we encourage and support those local associations and friendships for those who are not working?
Three words: interests, involvement and giving.
One way of making local associations is to volunteer, and previous work from the King’s Fund has noted the value of volunteering in a health and social care setting in reducing isolation and loneliness. This seems like a virtuous circle: volunteering in health and social care (or any setting) helps reduce loneliness, which helps reduce health risks of being lonely (our often quoted research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, expresses this well).
One of the important aspects of the services you run is getting to the bottom of its true impact, such as reducing loneliness and increasing connections. Do you know what impact you’re making on those you’re there to help, or even the impact on those who volunteer to help your services and activities run? Are you reducing their loneliness?
The Campaign to End Loneliness is starting a project on how loneliness is being measured amongst different organisations throughout the country. So if you run a service or activity for older people, and you’re a supporter of the Campaign (it’s easy to sign up, do it here), we’d like to hear from you about your experiences and views on measuring loneliness in that service.
This work is designed to support the Campaign in its aim to help organisations to deliver more effective interventions to tackle and prevent loneliness. In the initial phase of the project we are undertaking some research with commissioners, funders, service delivery organisations and the research community to get a good view of what measurement systems are currently available, which are being used, and the extent to which these meet the key stakeholders’ needs.
If you are you measuring loneliness in older age, and you are a supporter of the Campaign to End Loneliness (it just takes a minute), you could take just a few moments of your time to complete this brief questionnaire. All respondents will be entered into a £15 voucher prize draw.
In the future, through the results of this project and further work with our supporter network of 350 organisations, we aim to support many more of you to be able to show the value of your services and activities in tackling loneliness and creating connections in older age, not just for your “beneficiaries” but potentially for your volunteers too.
So, is volunteering an answer to tackling loneliness? We may never truly know if more services and activities aren’t measuring their impact on the friendships and local associations of their service users and volunteers.