Helping Older People this Loneliness Awareness Week and Beyond

Friday 19 June 2020

The UK population is living longer, and this is in many ways a positive prospect for people and society. Yet living longer can bring challenges for the individual, our healthcare system, for families and communities. Alongside ageing, loneliness is a growing challenge, with over a million people reporting symptoms of chronic loneliness in the UK. Whilst loneliness is not an emotion exclusive to older generations, research shows that it is a common feeling reported among those in older age. By taking away our ability to see and connect with people in real life, the coronavirus pandemic has only intensified this issue.

To tackle this evolving crisis, Octavia has been providing connections and support to older and isolated people for many years. Founded in 1865, we help thousands of people in London live happily, independently, and with the care they need. We offer a range of befriending and outreach services, giving older adults the chance to connect and converse with others in their neighbourhood.

Traditionally delivered by our Care and Foundation functions, the two teams recently combined resources to create our newly launched Better Lives programme. Through tailored individual and group activities, Better Lives connects people to much-needed support through local befriending and social activities, either at one of our seven care schemes, our Community Hub, The Reed in North Kensington, or via outreach services in individual homes or other community venues. Determined to overcome barriers that prevent older people from accessing support, our qualified staff provide encouragement and practical assistance on a one-on-one basis including free transport to events. In 2019/2020, the group activities on offer reached and connected with almost 1000 people. The one-to-one support was also far-reaching, with volunteer befrienders providing nearly 3,000 hours of company and enjoyable conversation for older or vulnerable adults.

We want to grow and strengthen the evidence base of this programme and are working with New Philanthropic Capital (NPC), a leading charity and philanthropy consultant, on a two-part evaluation. Phase 1, which was completed in 2019, set out to identify a comprehensive metrics system to measure the impact of the programme. The results display clear evidence of the positive impact this kind of support provides for older people. As well as shining a spotlight on the considerable degree of comfort it brings, the results also demonstrate that it constitutes a low-cost means for older people to enhance their wellbeing. Phase 1 concluded that the Social Return of Investment ratio for the Better Lives is 1:5. This means that for every £1 spent in providing the services, an equivalent £5 is achieved in social value.

Through the second phase of the NPC research project, we will further strengthen the evidence base underpinning our programme. Due to be published later in the year, the findings will be used to refine the model we use, providing more robust evidence of how key outcomes and goals are achieved or may be improved.

Neil McCarthy, Assistant Director of Care and Support said: “While it is pleasing to see the positive outcomes from Phase 1 of the project, we know the need is greater still. We hope that by joining up the resources and expertise of our Care and Foundations teams, our holistic, evidence-based approach will help us reach even more older and isolated people.

Whilst our group activities have been put on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, our commitment to providing outreach services is in no way diminished. We will continue to do everything in our power to support older people through our telephone befriending service during this time, and we look forward to re-starting our groups once it is safe to do so.”

Octavia’s initiatives to tackle loneliness are funded with a mixture of funds from the Octavia Foundation, Westminster City Council, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the London Borough of Hounslow. We are seeking to extend our initiatives by working with other Local Authorities, funding partners, and like-minded voluntary organisations. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Reena Mukherji at or Neil McCarthy at

Read Anna’s befriending story here

Find out more about Loneliness Awareness Week here

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