Research on a national level shows that 10% of over 65s would describe themselves as ‘always or often lonely’ – meaning there are around 19,000 older people in Devon for whom this is a daily reality. This is particularly the case in the many rural areas of the county where there are limited services or community activities available. In its Health and Wellbeing Strategy, Devon County Council includes – under it’s priority focusing on improving mental health – an ambition to reduce loneliness among all age groups.
During the past sixteen months, we have been networking, researching and engaging with key organisations and individuals across Devon to understand current provision and gaps to address loneliness. Our Regional Development Officer for Devon, Richard Taylor, who is based near Exeter, has built some exciting partnerships with organisations wishing to address this crucial issue. Richard explains ‘my role has enabled me to gain a real understanding of the issue of loneliness and social isolation particularly among older people, much of which has taken place during the pandemic. It has been inspiring to understand more about the great work being carried out by many organisations and individuals to support socially isolated older people.’
Having carried out local research and networking, befriending schemes have now been established (or in process) in partnership with churches (or Christian organisations) in Exeter (two schemes), Plymouth, Dawlish and Kingsteignton. Richard adds ‘these befriending schemes using our Two’s Company Befriending model have developed as partnerships with churches in communities where there is a real need and they will all operate closely with other local charities, statutory bodies (such as GP surgeries, social prescribers and police) and volunteers will visit or telephone those requiring these services.
We are now looking to raise funds to continue this exciting work during the next year and we aim to establish a further six befriending schemes in priority areas. We have launched a Crowdfunding page specifically for this project and all proceeds raised will contribute towards addressing loneliness across Devon.
To support us in this work, please go to our