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The Social Impact of Creating Connections

Reducing social isolation among people over 65 was the focus of a presentation by social care charity Guild Care on Friday 15th March held at Worthing Town Hall. Invited guests included the Mayor of Worthing Cllr Jon Roser, Tim Loughton MP, along with other local dignitaries, councillors, and representatives of organisations involved in health and social care.

Guild Care’s CEO, Alex Brooks-Johnson presented the charity’s Social Impact Report. He highlighted the scale of social isolation among older people and the impact it has on health, well-being, and society – and how the situation can be recovered through working collaboratively.

Alex said, “The impact of social isolation is far-reaching and it’s something we, as a community, simply cannot ignore. Older people who are lonely are twice as likely to visit a GP and 300% more likely to develop depression. Lacking social connections has even been compared to smoking 15 cigarettes a day through an increased likelihood of diabetes, strokes, and heart disease. *

“So, in 2021, we set out to reduce social isolation among older people in Worthing by introducing the Creating Connections service. Our Creating Connections team now bring together people over 65 to connect with new friends while enjoying a variety of free, face-to-face activities throughout the week. Demand has been exponential with more and more people reaching out to us every week.”

The audience were then shown a video featuring John Kirsten, who’s life changed dramatically after his wife died then the covid lockdown left him isolated. He explained how Creating Connections has transformed his life. John’s made new friends and together they enjoy singing for fun and ping pong, and he now volunteers to help with sessions.

Creating Connections member, Pam Fairley, spoke of her own experience. Pam said, “After my husband died, I felt so low. I contacted Creating Connections which has changed my life. At the new members’ meeting I chose the quiz, which everyone loves, and singing, which is how I met my lovely friend Audrey. Creating Connections really has brightened my life.”

Shirley Craig has also found the service impactful, saying, “In 2016 my world changed when my husband was diagnosed with dementia. That’s when Guild Care entered our lives. The drivers picked us up with a big smile and Guild Care became our sanctuary. They brought joy back into our lives, giving us good company and some priceless moments. Loneliness is a difficult companion. Creating Connections is a lifeline. I hope it continues to be a beacon of hope, providing solace and guidance for years to come.”

The 2021 census showed that 25,000 people over 65 live in Worthing, making up 22% of the population. Guild Care aims to support 8,000 people through its Creating Connections services and end social isolation for older people in Worthing. Alex Brooks-Johnson highlighted studies that have shown that more than a million older people in the UK have gone over a month without speaking to friends or family**.

Social isolation can happen to anyone, particularly those facing issues such as bereavement of a spouse or lifelong friends, declining health, loss of confidence, and decreasing personal funds.

Creative Connections activities range from arts & crafts, bingo, singing, gentle exercise sessions, a quiz and ping pong. Most activities are free, so they are accessible for all, thanks to public funding and generous private donations.

Alex Brooks-Johnson said, “For every £1 spent, the social return on investment is over £5.96***­. By helping to prevent people needing hospital beds, the more we can increase health and wellbeing, the more impact we should see on the social care system.

“I’m delighted that 83% of people told us they feel less lonely since joining Creating Connections, but we need to help many more people facing social isolation. That means we need larger venues, more funding, and more volunteers to drive the minibuses and help run the sessions.

“We’re calling for a collective commitment from some of the incredible organisations in Worthing to work collaboratively with us at Guild Care to end social isolation and make Worthing the best place to grow old in the UK.”

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