Research tells us:
- Men tend to build social relationships differently to women and this can make them vulnerable to social isolation as they age
- Men’s social interaction can often be centred around the workplace, increasing the risk of isolation on retirement.
- Older men often rely on their partner to maintain friendship groups and social networks. As a result, men who are bereaved or divorced are at risk of becoming isolated.
Lots of work in the past few years has shown organisations might have a better chance of engaging older men by adopting a subtly gendered approach (it’s not just about men’s groups, it’s also about talking to men differently) – and there’s a tiny bit of me that makes me wonder if this is really just about us being consciously aware of engaging people in different ways, akin to all our learning about making it person-centred – but that’s one for another blog!
Starting with your promotion
Try using a transactional approach – this piece of learning from Camden could be a bit of a game changer for some. By talking to older men when they were out and about they realised that changing the way they communicated about activities – ignoring much of the guidance of their colleagues in Comms, actually improved their ability to engage older men in their activities. You can listen to a talk about the work or download the slides and find out lots about their work with men on the Ageing Better in Camden website
Think about different activities
Insights from the whole Ageing Better programme are pulled together in a very readable document: Working and engaging with older men – learning from Ageing Better
- Think about the focus of the activity – older men can be put off by groups which they perceive as being a ‘talking shop’ or an excuse for chatting. Instead, they are more likely to be attracted to groups built around a particular shared interest
- Create opportunities to give something back – build in opportunities for older men to help run groups. Avoid describing this as ‘volunteering’, and keep it flexible and informal. (Like Float your Boat)
- Provide a supportive environment – we found that it worked well to reach older men through social prescribing projects. These projects could provide the additional support which might be necessary to enable people to attend activities or groups.
- Make sure your group offers a relaxed, casual, friendly and non-competitive environment and consider if there is a need for a men-only group or activity.
- Consider organising one-off events to ‘hook’ new members. This might be a trip, a special guest or a taster session. This also avoids people feeling they have to make an on-going commitment, which can be off-putting.
- Promote your group to men, in places that men go to. This could include pubs, working men’s clubs and sports venues. Also consider churches, temples and mosques. It could also mean encouraging men to bring others along who may be in a similar position
Some of the learning LOPF gained from Time to Shine helped to inform the whole Men’s Health Unlocked programme too. Damian and his team sit at the the other end of my virtual office and probably have the best knowledge about engaging men across the city. So do get in touch with them too if you needs Leeds specific help and ideas.
Good Practice Mentor