Taking action against loneliness

Tuesday 16 June 2020

The pandemic has had a profound impact on our day-to-day lives, particularly our social habits and personal relationships. In our combined efforts to stay safe and save lives, our usual ways of seeing family, friends or just familiar faces have been put on pause.

To continue our fight against intergenerational loneliness, we have adapted some of our face-to-face services so that we can keep fostering companionship and connections within our communities.  

In April, we launched an online activity group to keep youngsters engaged and connected with their peers. The daily virtual groups have replaced the face-to-face Base@theReed club usually held at our North Kensington hub, The Reed, four nights a week. Led by qualified Octavia youth workers, Base@Home offers young people a mixture of music production, photography, filmmaking, art and design to keep them entertained and stimulated. More than 40 young people have taken part in the activities since the virtual youth club launched in April. The club is open to all skill levels, with tutorial videos available to help beginners get started. Anyone aged 10-21 can view the timetable and sign up online via the link http://bit.ly/baseatthereed

Almost eight million people in the UK were already living alone and, in a time of national crisis, are at greater risk of becoming even more isolated in their homes. Through volunteer support, we usually run both one-to-one and group befriending support for older and vulnerable individuals living in The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and in Westminster. We have replaced this face-to-face service with a telephone befriending programme for older people, training and supporting hundreds of volunteers remotely. With matches based on shared interests, the programme offers positive, meaningful contact to the most isolated by way of a weekly phone call from a volunteer. Switching over 100 volunteers from our traditional programme has meant that those who rely on this lifeline are able to keep in contact with their befriender, a familiar person with whom they have a friendship bond.

Within our extra care schemes, staff have been paying special attention to supporting the wellbeing of residents, through helping them to keep in touch with friends and family with telephone and video phone calls. They are also providing a range of activities including Zoom yoga, exercise bike sessions, arts and crafts, as well as, providing reassuring company in what is a worrying and sometimes disorienting time for many of our older residents. 

Reena Mukherji, Director of Octavia Foundation, said: “Octavia remains committed to reducing social isolation by continuing community life online. While the lockdown regulations mean that we must halt our traditional services, we are pleased to be able to offer support remotely.

The crisis has shone a light on the plight of many older, isolated people who were in great need of companionship before the pandemic. By adapting our services, we are able to help those feeling the social impacts of isolation feel a little more connected during these challenging times.”

Brenda, a befriending service user from Westminster, said ”I have found Octavia’s telephone befriending service to be excellent. I talk to my befriender for an hour every week about all sorts of things. She has the same interests as me, such as gardening, so conversation naturally flows. Even after such a short space of time, I have found myself confiding in her because we have built a nice level of trust. She also tells me a lot about herself so it feels like a natural two-way conversation.”

Volunteer befriender applications can be submitted via our website:  https://www.octaviafoundation.org.uk/volunteer/apply_now


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