Tackling loneliness in the rural community

Loneliness in the UK is on the rise – Age UK reported that the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6. This compares to around 1.4 million in 2016/7, a 49% increase in 10 years. Locally, the last UK Census in 2011, noted that 28% of Herefordshire households comprised one person, half of whom were over 65, and a Herefordshire quality of life survey undertaken by Data Orchard in 2018 indicated that 26% of respondents reported they had felt lonely some of the time during the past week and 8% had felt lonely most or all of the time. Loneliness Awareness Week (15-19 June), hosted by the Marmalade Trust, was set up 4 years ago to raise awareness of loneliness and encourage people to speak about it openly, regardless of gender.

Women and men often experience loneliness in different ways. It is a well-known fact that women generally find it easier to express emotions and open up to each other whereas men tend to avoid communicating their feelings or socialising with people they don’t know. Up until the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, local community groups were a lifeline to both men and women, running regular interest groups such as book or cookery clubs, running or walking sessions, or people were working as volunteers for charities. Most of these clubs or groups sadly had to close down temporarily, leaving many people feeling even more isolated than ever.

One such group, the Ross-on-Wye Men’s Shed, is currently closed, with members continuing to keep in touch via social media until life starts to return to normal. The group was set up in March 2018 to tackle loneliness, illness and isolation by welcoming men in the region to apply their skills, fixing or creating a variety of woodwork or metalwork projects including bird houses, clocks, garden furniture, cupboards, coat hooks, storage boxes and benches. For those without carpentry skills, the Men’s Shed also welcomes any men who just want to enjoy the company of others and have a chat over a cup of tea – a lifeline for many members. The Men’s Shed will be resuming its activities in the near future, as soon as it is advised safe to do so. Contact the team on 07460 882908 or email rossonwyemensshed@gmail.com for further details.

Herefordshire Council, keen advocates of Loneliness Awareness Week, are helping people to make new connections and supporting those who are finding lockdown particularly difficult. The team’s focus this year is on the lack of social mealtimes where so many people – particularly during lockdown – haven’t had the chance to sit and eat a meal with other people.

The Council’s Healthy Lifestyle Team will be running a fun ‘Virtual Cook and Eat Along’ live lunch where participants can log on via a Zoom link and interact with each other. The virtual lunch will take place on Friday 20th June at 12pm – participants can either join in with the cookery class (making soup and a flatbread) or just join the session for company. For further details, call Yvonne from the Healthy Lifestyle Team on 07792 882024.

Finally, Ross Good Neighbours continues to support the community with its ongoing shopping and deliveries for vulnerable or isolated residents, as well as continuing its many other valuable services such as the Message Line ( 01763 802046) . Looking beyond lockdown, the RGNS will be launching its ‘Buddy’ Scheme to support neighbours who may need a little extra help with daily tasks. Further details can be found online at www.rosscdt.org.uk.

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