Supporting the older generation

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000

Description

The Friends for Life (FFL) Befriending Project is able to show that it is an extremely valuable and cost-effective intervention, utilising local community resources which enable vulnerable and socially excluded older people to live more independent and fulfilled lives.
The FFL project has been set up by Age Connects Torfaen in order to respond to the unmet need or dealing with loneliness and isolation amongst older people living in Torfaen,
The project has adopted a group approach to befriending through the establishment of eight community hubs. The hubs provide individuals the opportunity to meet with one another on a regular basis in an informal and friendly environment. This approach to group befriending allows people to share their experiences and worries with others who have a shared understanding and can offer solutions based on their own experiences.
The hubs are facilitated by a support worker together with a group of volunteer befrienders and engagement takes place on a weekly basis with additional events including day trips, awareness days, training sessions and themed days taking place on an ad hoc basis.
The members that access the community hubs have all experienced what it is like to be socially isolated and unable to access community resources either as a result of poor physical or psychological health, a disability or due to a recent bereavement.
Providing befriending in the community allows easy access to universal services for older people. Running awareness sessions and bringing in guest speakers help to prepare people with the necessary tools needed to access and utilise services including Independent Living Aids and Benefits Assessments. It also helps to raise awareness of services located in the specific community.
The community hubs are designed and used for people aged 50 plus. The content of the hubs is decided for by the people attending, therefore increasing choice and control for the client.
A development of the group befriending method is the creation of a men’s only group called Only Men Allowed. This group meet on a monthly basis and activities and food are male specific.
During the three years that the project has been in place it has supported 3118 members. We have been able to see that if befriending is introduced to individuals at an early stage it can help provide the social and emotional support that a person who is isolated or disadvantaged because of a long term illness may require. Befriending can help build resilience to adversity, increase social networks and provide support to amenities or access to other services helping to improve future mental health and well-being.
Allowing people to access the community hubs in their own community, gives individuals the opportunity to participate in community life which will in turn improve the health and well-being of a person. The Friends for Life Project extends an individual’s social contacts and provides a sense of purpose. This in turn has a positive effect on volunteer befrienders. Volunteering as a befriender enables a person to have a sense of belonging and a feeling of giving something back to the community.
A recent development of the project was to give the hubs ownership and allow them to respond to the different needs of their individual community. Therefore all hubs formed their own committees; the groups hold a monthly committee meeting to discuss their ideas, look at hot topics in their area and plan the activities for the month. All hubs have a weekly lunch club, this ensures that every older person is at least having a nutritional meal each week. The activities that members take part in can vary from a mock court case, extend exercise, a weekly food co-operative and races afternoon.
The hubs provide a unique opportunity for bringing people together in the local community, which is not always easy for older people to do.
The funding will be used for the continued support of a part time support worker

Age Connects Torfaen

Location: Torfaen, United Kingdom

The hubs demonstrate life-changing effects of providing elderly people with opportunities to engage in activities with their peers in their community. The project offers a second chance at life and opens up new opportunities for older people to add life to their years.
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