The Leeds Older People’s Forum was established in March 1994 and has grown to a citywide membership of over 100 voluntary sector organisations working with older people across Leeds, including the Neighbourhood Network Schemes.All member organisations provide services dedicated to older people though they are not necessarily an older people’s organisation.

The aims of the Forum are:

To promote the well-being of all older people in the city of Leeds, and to give a more powerful voice to older people in shaping their city for the benefit of all its citizens.

Leeds Older People’s Forum does this by:

  • Representing older people’s views, needs and aspirations
  • Enabling older people’s organisations to participate fully in policy discussion and development
  • Enabling and sustaining good communication between individuals, groups and public, private and voluntary sector organisations.
  • Supporting projects to enhance the wellbeing of older people in Leeds
  • Ensuring Leeds Older People’s Forum is an effective and well-run organisation.

Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better in Leeds

Tackling loneliness and isolation of older people in Leeds

1 The Bid
Image 2Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better is a new Big Lottery programme that aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst older people. There is up to £6 million available in each area for a period of up to 6 years. Leeds is amongst the 32 Local Authorities selected from 100 applicants to go through to the second round of this programme. The bid is for up to £6M funding to address the extremely serious problems arising from loneliness and social isolation experienced by many thousands of older people throughout Leeds. Leeds Older People’s Forum has been selected as the lead organisation to prepare this bid and has to produce a vision and strategy to combat loneliness in Leeds by the end of April. If successful the funding will be available for organisations in Leeds to establish services and activities to combat loneliness and social isolation.

The application process is very complex and involves wide consultation and discussion with all organisations in Leeds in the public, private and voluntary sectors that work with older people. In order to achieve this the Forum has set up a core partnership of 18 key organisations in Leeds and a wider partnership including all other relevant organisations in Leeds. In addition we need to provide a wide range of opportunities for older people themselves to contribute to the process as much as possible.

2 The Scale
Research has shown that about 10% of people aged 65 and over are chronically lonely. In Leeds this equates to 11,400 people. The Bid aims to produce a plan to identify these people and provide services and support to try and relieve the loneliness and the associated effects it can have on their health, well-being and ability to live independently.

3 Adverse Effects of Loneliness and Social Isolation
Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social networks and friendships not only have an impact on reducing the risk of mortality or developing certain diseases, but they also help individuals to recover when they do fall ill. Loneliness increases the risk of high blood pressure and lonely individuals are at higher risk of the onset of disability. Loneliness puts individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and one recent study concludes lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia. Lonely individuals are more prone to depression and loneliness and low social interaction are predictive of suicide in older age.

Preventing and alleviating loneliness is vital to enabling older people to remain as independent as possible. Lonely individuals are more likely to: Visit their GP, have higher use of medication, higher incidence of falls and increased risk factors for long term care and undergo early entry into residential or nursing care.

4 Jim’s Story; an Example of what can be done to tackle Loneliness 
(From AVSED – the Neighbourhood Network Scheme in Aireborough)

After scouring the internet, Jim’s daughter Helen came across our website. She phoned us asking if we could help. Her Dad, age 90 needed help: Her mum, Jim’s wife had passed away only a few months ago and Jim was becoming increasingly sad, lonely and losing all interest in everything. He would once a day go for a walk though, but not in the rain. Helen was very worried about him and didn’t know what to do.

I visited Jim two days later.

Jim invited me into his home and asked me to go into the back reception room. He told me he didn’t go in there often as it was his wife’s favourite room and she would sit for hours looking out the patio doors at the garden. He couldn’t face going in there for any length of time. Even so, he asked me to take a seat but could I pull my chair right up to his to face him. He is almost blind he explained and that was the only way he could see the outline of my face. We sat and talked knee to knee.

Jim answered my questions. It was becoming clear he didn’t have friends as they’d all passed on, the highlight of his week was a trip to Morrisons but he didn’t feel like doing that anymore. Jim spoke mostly of his wife Olive. He sat with tears rolling down his cheeks telling me he now has nothing to live for. I too had tears listening to this man with a broken heart.

With much persuasion and encouragement and the promise I would accompany him on his first session with AVSED, Jim became a member and joined our Thursday Social Centre. We would also deliver fish and chips to him on a Friday.

This is what his daughter wrote to us after his first visit:

“I trust you are well. Just a short email to thank everybody for making Dad welcome yesterday. He had a good day. He said he missed Mum when he got back because he wanted to tell her all about it, but his voice did not crack when he said it. He is looking forward to next week. Two great phrases, Dad had a good day and he is looking forward to next week. These mean more than I can say. Thank you again.”

The most difficult thing about my job is ‘convincing’ people to come out with us. Anxiety, worry, depression and change all contribute towards the overriding fear to stay at home. Most people have the desire to come out and socialise but don’t have the courage to overcome the anxieties. Once that initial barrier has been overcome, without fail everyone enjoys themselves and Jim is no different – he’s still coming out with us every Thursday over a year later and is a much happier less lonely man.

Jim’s needs are typical of the needs of people I meet every day and the members we support. He doesn’t have any peculiar illness or special needs that require extra care or support. He was simply very lonely.

5 What can you do to Back the Bid?
Many organisations have given or pledged their support to this project. You can do so too by becoming a member of the Wider Partnership and gathering the views and experiences of older people on tackling loneliness and social isolation. This is essential for us to create a very strong bid to the Lottery Board.

Some organisations have pledged funding to support groups to carry out consultations. We need to obtain the widest possible range of views from all sections of the community in order to strengthen the bid.

Please consider joining us in this exciting venture and help to bring in up to £6M to Leeds to tackle loneliness and social isolation experienced by older people.

For more information go to the Fulfilling Lives page on this website.

Fulfilling Lives

Organisations backing the bid: