Home Group’s Lindsay Courtney explains how the housing association is working to combat social isolation and loneliness in Leeds.
The pandemic highlighted some clear disparities within society – one that’s always been close to my heart is the threat of social isolation.
This issue isn’t something new, it’s only been exacerbated by Covid-19, but it does present a clear risk to the population and particularly those in older age groups.
Combating social isolation isn’t enough however; it’s a purely objective measure around how many interactions one person has. Bound with it is loneliness, which is far more focused on the quality of people’s relationships – not simply the quantity.
According to Age UK, “loneliness often begins when people lose the opportunities to engage in ways they find meaningful.” People are more likely to be lonely if they are unable to do the things they want, or feel that they do not belong in their neighbourhood.
The need is pressing. The number of older people living in England who admit to often feeling lonely has been static for the last decade but, with an ageing population, the number could be as high as two million by 2026 *.
That’s why we’re excited to join Time to Shine’s Age and Dementia Friendly Business Scheme. We’re keen to understand more about the needs of local people and organisations, so we can learn as well. Home Group is one of the UK’s largest providers of integrated housing and care – its mission is to build homes, independence and aspirations. We do this in various ways across England and Scotland, including social housing, mental health support and services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.
Central to our work in Leeds is the creation of four new community wellbeing services across the city. The first, Amblers Orchard in Tingley, will consist of 63 one and two bed apartments, all available for affordable rent, as well as a 24/7 support team.
They form part of Leeds City Council’s ambitious £30 million extra care housing programme which will see a total of seven state of the art buildings constructed, providing over 400 more places.
Home Group’s approach to these services is to connect communities and offer a place for multigenerational interaction. We want people to feel empowered and encouraged to maintain and develop their skills, as well as learning new ones!
The aim is to keep our customers active for longer, less isolated and enjoying the things they love, while reducing their dependency on primary care by managing conditions through our service.
Within our community wellbeing services, we’re also creating areas for local people to use, including salons, cafés and activity spaces, allowing residents to better integrate and build relationships with the wider community, rather than becoming increasingly isolated.
A further part of our approach is ensuring they are dementia friendly, as there is increasing evidence that well-designed interiors genuinely enhance the lives of people who live within and use them.
That’s why we’ve made being dementia friendly part of our interior design procurement framework across all of Home Group’s community wellbeing services. We want to create communal spaces that are truly accessible for all our residents and visitors.
While there’s still a lot to be done, our work in Leeds is a statement of our commitment to tackle these challenges. I would encourage anyone interested in our approach, in living in one of our services, or in working with us to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Strategic Lead for Service Design and Practice, Home Group,
and a qualified occupational therapist.
* All the Lonely People: loneliness in later life (Age UK, September 2018)