The number of older people in the UK who regularly feel lonely is growing. With the dedication of our staff and student volunteers, our LinkAges project aims to change this.

The problem of elderly isolation

Loneliness is a growing problem among the UK's elderly population. Age UK's research shows that over 2 million people over the age of 75 in the UK live alone.

People aged 50 and over are more likely to feel the negative effects of prolonged social isolation, especially if they have been widowed, or have lost contact with other family members. Some older people feel they do not have someone they can open up to. It hardly comes as a surprise that experiencing long periods of isolation can lead to depression, and have a serious impact on someone's physical and emotional welfare.

The bench
According to Age UK, more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. 

In addition to this, poor health problems can often be a barrier to older people having more active social lives, meaning that many older people find it easier just to stay at home.

The proportion of people aged 50 and over living in England who say they are often lonely has remained similar for at least a decade. If we do not tackle this issue, our ageing population means that the number of older people who are often lonely will increase to 2 million by 2026. - Age UK's 'All The Lonely People: Loneliness in Later Life' Report (2018)

In Winchester, elderly isolation is a prevalent problem, due to a larger proportion of older residents. Hampshire County Council found that between 2016 and 2019, there were 27,000 people over the age of 65 living in Hampshire who felt lonely most of the time.

In terms of a solution, Age UK have found that social activities are an essential component to combating feelings of loneliness. Our LinkAges project prides itself in offering accessible inter-generational activities to make older people in Winchester feel less alone.

What we're doing about it

Our LinkAges project sends student volunteers into the wider community to tackle social isolation head-on. Our volunteers regularly participate in opportunities to engage with older people and make a positive difference to their lives through fostering new social relationships.

Our Sporting Memories group meets on Monday mornings to play some light sports and get to know each other over tea and coffee!

LinkAges is partnered with care homes, community centres and the local council in the Winchester area, so that we are able to offer a variety of activities for both students and elderly residents to bond over.

“LinkAges is unique in that it seeks to tackle elderly isolation. In an area where the proportion of elderly residents is above the national average, it is key that we have a project where students can connect with them in a mutually beneficial way. I was delighted by the variety of different activities offered within LinkAges and the way that it has made elderly people less lonely, whilst developing the skills of students who have fun at the same time!” - Sam Jenkins, LinkAges Coordinator

Currently, we run coffee mornings, PC lessons and light sports and games sessions throughout weekdays during term time. At the moment we can offer placements at Matilda Place, Hyde Gate, River Park Leisure Centre and Sunrise Care Home. LinkAges volunteers are required to give just an hour a week (or more if they'd like!) to spend at their particular placement each week.

No previous experience is required to volunteer, but a smile and a sense of humour will help! After applying, our volunteers will attend an information session and receive safeguarding training, as well as a DBS certificate.

The benefits of volunteering with LinkAges

1) Make a difference to someone else's life. By volunteering as little as an hour each week, you can brighten up someone else's life and make them feel less alone.

2) Build your confidence. Our LinkAges events are incredibly social, and are a great opportunity to become more confident in talking to other people and making friends!

3) Volunteering looks great on your CV. Completion of a regular volunteering placement is desirable for employers, as it shows that you work well as part of a team, and that you care about the wellbeing of others.

4) Improve your own wellbeing. Numerous studies have shown that regular volunteering has a significant positive impact on your emotional wellbeing and state of mind. Volunteering with LinkAges has the added incentive that you'll be improving the emotional wellbeing of others too!

5) It's fun! The activities we organise as part of LinkAges are designed to be enjoyable for all ages! Volunteering with us could be a great way to get away from the stress of upcoming assignments, and just have fun.

Upcoming events

The LinkAges Tea Party is an annual event where both student volunteers and elderly residents are invited to participate in an afternoon of fun, with tea, coffee, cake and activities provided.

Last year we held the Tea Party in the St Alphege building, and Aaron Lee, our previous LinkAges coordinator organised a challenging quiz!

This year, the LinkAges Tea Party will be during the afternoon of Wednesday 12th February 2020.

If you'd like to get involved with LinkAges, sign-up here to attend one of our information sessions, or visit our website to find out more. Applications for regular volunteering closes at 5pm on Sunday 3rd February 2020.