The detrimental effects of loneliness in old age is a serious problem – not only does it affect health but it also affects the mind and general well-being of the person involved. However the issue of loneliness is not always confined to the elderly because those of a working age can suddenly find themselves made redundant or forced to retire early, and they can suffer just as much.
Its not so much that they suddenly have time on their hands – its the sudden sense of rejection followed by the loss of confidence, loss of companionship from their work colleagues plus the loss of a daily routine. Unless they are lucky enough to walk into another job they may struggle to adjust, and many fall prey to that dreaded condition called depression.
In our village – Holme on Spalding Moor – an initiative inspired by the Holme Christian Fellowship tries to tackle both issues: that of loneliness and lack of confidence. It is funded by the East Riding of Yorkshire Councils Adult Education department and we call it ‘New Beginnings.’ This initiative is aimed at those from their late teens to their 80’s who find themselves with time on their hands, or who would like to take up a hobby, or who are just suffering from a lack of friends, and the courses are free too.
We offer what is called ‘Garden Shed’ activities where either gender can make regular use of a fully equipped workshop with guidance from tutors. The ‘students’ are trained on how to use machine tools and find themselves instilled with a sense of creativity, and in most cases learn a hobby too!
Another choice is our ‘Basic Computer Course’ – this is in conjunction with ‘UK On-Line’ and offers basic tuition for those who lack confidence when using computers – we also teach internet awareness and how to shop and bank safely using the internet. This has achieved great success and is very popular.
As a writer I tutor a ‘Creative Writing’ course, which again has inspired many who felt they would like to write but had no idea on how to start. We also offer ‘A Taste of France’ with a French teacher who really is French. Again there is a smattering of basic French being taught but also discussions about life in France including cookery. Finally our village has a Thursday Friendship afternoon for those with Alzheimer’s or their carers, or for those that just want to come and join in with quizzes, discussions and find new friends.
Our village is quite envied because of all the activities available and what our volunteer groups have to offer. Many of the ‘student’s just come for the companionship and the chance of a natter accompanied by a cup of tea – most thoroughly enjoy the sessions and do actually go on to ‘do their own thing’ and that is the objective – to get folk out from behind closed doors and get them back into socialising.
However just as other institutions discover, sometimes it can be very difficult to entice people out to join these groups and to take that first step – however for those that do the rewards are great. It would be great to see other areas tackling this issue because I feel that isolation for the elderly is going to increase in the near future.