During these uncertain times, local charity East London Cares is renewing its efforts to reduce loneliness in Tower Hamlets and Hackney
The charity brings together older people over 65 and younger people aged between 18 and 35 to share friendship and new experiences. Their programmes had been face-to-face but, in March this year, East London Cares radically re-invented its work to tackle lockdown loneliness and help people stay connected during the pandemic.
Now, as the charity seeks to reduce loneliness and its mental health effects during a third lockdown, it is renewing efforts to bring people together online, on the phone and by post.
The effect of lockdown loneliness on mental health is clear. One in three (34%) older people agree that their anxiety is now worse or much worse than before the start of Covid-19. But It’s not just older people who are affected. Figures show that during the first lockdown in the spring, half of all workers experienced loneliness. 70% of those said their loneliness had a negative impact on their overall wellbeing.
East London Cares will seek to reverse the tide of loneliness throughout winter with a suite of programmes that create meaningful connections and lasting relationships between older and younger people in East London. As well as tech support to help older people get online, the charity will bring the community together online through Virtual Social Clubs, over the phone through a one-to-one friendship programme and by post.
Indrani, 69, who is matched with Sarah, 33, as part of the Phone a Friend programme said:
“This is what I like about East London Cares: mixing the young and the old. So we can learn from each other.
“For years after I retired I never joined any groups. When I tried groups, they were so depressing. It’s so good to be with young people. I know I’m old, but I’m young, spiritually.
“During this COVID period, it is a blessing to have Sarah our young volunteer on the other end of the line to check on me and vice versa. Yes, there are numerous programmes that East London Care host on ZOOM but nothing can replace a real one-to-one chat by phone with someone who cares and remains non-judgemental. This has been a real lifeline for me.
“I would encourage more volunteers and neighbours to participate. We need each other. ”
Meanwhile, Sarah said:
“I love Indrani so much, we really helped each other throughout the lockdown and developed a great friendship since.
“She’s full of incredible stories and also gives the best advice. I am very grateful for her and for East London Cares to have put us into each other’s lives.”
East London Cares’ founder and Chief Executive Alex Smith, said:
“Loneliness is a painful, insidious emotion that we all experience, but when it’s chronic as it has been for so many older and younger people in London this year, it can be even more harmful, with serious long-term health consequences.
“More than that, when we withdraw from one another, we know one another less well, and that can lead to divisions which are unsustainable for our local and national social fabric.
“I’ve been so inspired by how East Londoners have mobilised to show that, in these parts, we do not leave our neighbours forgotten, lonely and left behind – not in a pandemic, not ever.
The charity is now seeking new older and younger neighbours to get involved to help stem loneliness in the community.
About East London Cares:
East London Cares is a community network of younger and older neighbours reducing loneliness together.
Local people can find out how to support East London Cares by visiting: https://Eastlondoncares.org.uk/home
East London Cares Covid-19 support:
East London Cares is renewing its efforts to bring people together online, on the phone and by post. Its re-invented programmes are:
Phone in and Zoom Social Clubs – large and small group parties and discussions taking place online and by phone.
Phone a Friend – one-to-one friendships through which older and younger Londoners call one another up several times a week.
Tech Support – one-to-one support with how to create and/or use an email account or one-to-one support to download and navigate the Zoom app.
Outreach – East London Cares is running its tenth annual Winter Wellbeing project this year. Through the project, older neighbours at risk of isolation are invited to be part of its group and one-to-one programmes.
#AloneTogether – over 1,200 older East Londoners will be sent creative activities in the post designed to fill time and distract attention from the pandemic, co-created by older and younger people together.