Last month, That’s Manchester featured Manchester Cares in a short film about fighting back against loneliness and isolation, alongside older neighbour Tommy (83). Tommy talked about how a distance from others “breeds that melancholy that just overtakes you” and “eats away at you” over time. Through our nascent Social Clubs, Love Your Neighbour and Outreach programmes Manchester Cares has started to tackle this isolation and loneliness amongst older people and young professionals alike in the city of Manchester.
The nature of the isolation older and younger groups face is very different. For many older people, retirement, the loss of social networks, bereavements, single living and failing health all play a role. For younger people, professional expectations, social media, FOMO (fear of missing out), and living and working with people largely from similar backgrounds and world views, can all bring a sense of being unfulfilled. It’s in our fast-changing cities where the crisis is most pronounced. Globalisation, gentrification, migration, urban transience, digitisation and housing bubbles have all contributed. The multiplying effect is that many older people have deep roots in their communities but few connections, while many young people have hundreds of connections but no roots in communities.
“I love visiting Audrey every week,” Polly, 30, said. “We’ve struck up a great, easy-going friendship. We also listen to each other’s problems – Audrey always has great advice. And most importantly we make each other laugh.”
"It’s not a “befriending” scheme as the benefits are two-way, with the younger volunteers getting as much out of the interactions as the older participants."
Check out BBC Inside Out documentary on The Cares Family and how it improves people's lives in our big cities.
“l love coming here,” says Mr Crowson. “We learn a new recipe every week and it gets me out and meeting interesting people instead of sitting at home looking at four walls all day. I was talking to a couple of students the other day. One of them had been to India and Dubai; another had just got a job in a film company. Young people really are adventurous and go-getters these days.”
"Cares is a brilliant initiative that has connected 1,200 professional people to 1,200 older neighbours. Its founder argues that migration, gentrification, digitisation and commercialisation have disrupted once familiar and stable communities. Older people have become invisible in their own fragmented neighbourhoods. [It's time to] roll out the Cares franchise across the country."
"Government should be doing more to support civil society organisations that promote integration and shared understanding. For example, matching young professionals with older people in a way that builds young people’s understanding of the history and heritage of the place in which they live and older people’s understanding of the more ethnically mixed younger generation."
"It brings together young professionals with local older residents to provide mutual connection and companionship. He believes the discourse on intergenerational conflict is too simplistic: “In the modern world there aren’t enough opportunities for people from across the generational and social divides to interact.”
"Tackling this challenge is going to require a huge effort from policymakers, families and communities. Good work is already being done, with clinical commissioning groups and local authorities referring to myriad organisations to make interventions. And we can all make a difference right away. In this isolating weather, in particular, individuals can look out for older neighbours or volunteer through a local charity. Because even Dave Elvis gets lonesome sometimes."
"As our populations continue to age, and especially as our budgets continue to diminish, we need to develop new strategies for how we finance our loved ones through comfortable, healthy and happy longer lives."
"Those small, personal interactions can have a really positive effect in people's lives, providing the connection, comfort, companionship and care many of our more isolated neighbours need."