£6m project to fight loneliness among Leeds’s elderly

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A GROUNDBREAKING project to keep thousands of older people in Leeds out of the grip of loneliness has secured a £6m lottery grant.

Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) will receive £1m a year for the next six years to establish new services across the city that will keep “turn the tide” of social isolation and aim to prevent the damage loneliness can cause.

Estimates suggests there are 37,000 lonely or socially isolated older people in Leeds, with the number growing each year. The funding, from the Big Lottery Fund’s Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme, which saw 100 local authorities bid for a share of the money, will be used to establish a wide range of services aimed at tackling loneliness, which can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

LOPF said it hopes to reach at least 15,000 older people to “help move them out of the shadows cast by loneliness.”

It will work with Leeds Council, voluntary organisations and business partners to build on work that is already being done to focus on the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach people, and will put older people at the heart of managing and designing the work.

Bill Rollinson, chairman of Leeds Older People’s Forum said: “This is great news for Leeds. We will offer older people in Leeds currently living in the shadows of loneliness a time to shine. This is why we have called our project ‘Out of the Shadows: Time to Shine’.”

The bid was put together by LOPF and the council after consultation with 863 older people, carers and community organisations across the city.

The new community services will include more opportunities for older people to socialise on evenings, weekends and bank holidays, help with travel and cultural activities, including a project where volunteers will offer ‘dinner dates’ and mentors will support older people in gaining confidence to get out of the house. Social prescribing initiatives will also work with older people referred through integrated health and social care.

Coun Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, said securing this funding was a “massive leap forward” as it works to stop older people in Leeds becoming socially isolated and would help “turn the tide against the blight of loneliness.”

He said: “With this money, we can build on the impressive work already being done in Leeds and spread the message louder and more clearly than ever that older people don’t need to sit on the sidelines, that they can have active and fulfilling social lives and that the help and support they need is out there for them.

“Loneliness is not an inevitable consequence of old age and if everyone works together we can ensure that older people in Leeds don’t have to suffer in silence.”

The project also forms part of Leeds’s effort to be an age-friendly city. The council recently signed up to an ambitious pledge to make Leeds the best place in the country for older people to live, work and visit, with the city officially included in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities.

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