The Harrogate Advertiser would like to thank readers for supporting our Ending Loneliness campaign since its launch in October.
We have been overwhelmed by the tremendous response from big-hearted readers, charities and other organisations - and after just eight weeks of campaigning, Finola Fitzpatrick reports on how the district has united to end loneliness.
Ending Loneliness by volunteering
After publishing a series of features in the Harrogate Advertiser showcasing the support provided by charities helping older people, a number of readers have signed up to volunteer as a direct result.
The Harrogate Easier Living Project has new volunteer befrienders for its Opening Doors initiative; Carers’ Resource has secured a new volunteer for the Carers’ Time Off scheme; Age UK North Yorkshire has a new telephone befriender, and Supporting Older People have a volunteer for the charity’s home visiting service.
Ending Loneliness by answering our calls to action
Each week the Harrogate Advertiser has invited readers to get involved and support the campaign by answering a specific call to action.
One week we asked readers to share their ideas of how we can end loneliness in our district, and we are delighted that this triggered a great response and has been a real conversation point for readers.
Reader Elaine Scott suggested that churches could run friendship groups on a Sunday to ease loneliness, and after publishing her letter, a number of churches contacted us to share what they are doing to encourage anyone who might be feeling lonely to come along to their clubs and friendship groups.
Another reader contacted us to share an exciting vision she has for setting up a hobby group for older people, and explained that although it is an idea she has had for a long time, reading the campaign has inspired her to set it up next year.
After featuring Dementia Forward’s Mince Pies and Memories campaign, the Harrogate Advertiser invited readers to share a memory over a mince pie to raise money for the charity and end loneliness for someone in the process.
Oatlands Community Group answered our call to action and organised an event at their community centre, raising over £170. Six other organisations took part after reading about the campaign, including Park Parade surgery in Harrogate.
We also asked readers to share what they are already doing to alleviate loneliness, to raise awareness of the issue and mobilise others to do something similar.
This prompted Deborah Thornton to write to us about the Home Library Service, and national charity Contact the Elderly shared the work they are doing, after reading one of the calls to action on our website.
Anthony Lee contacted us to share his plans to organise a free Christmas lunch at the Green Hut on Harlow Hill for anyone who might otherwise be spending Christmas Day on their own.
Writing about the lunch prompted other readers to get in touch, who also wanted to publicise their Christmas events to ease loneliness.
Ending Loneliness together
Since its launch, 26 charities and organisations have backed our campaign.
These include: Dementia Forward; Supporting Older People; Age UK North Yorkshire; the Sporting Memories Network; the Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service (HARCVS); St Andrew’s Church, Starbeck; Starbeck Methodist Church; Saint Michael’s Hospice; Harrogate Town AFC; Berwins Solicitors; Harrogate Homeless Project, and the Harrogate Food Angels.
The Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Nick Brown has also expressed his support for the campaign.
Ending Loneliness across the generations
After reading about the campaign, Grove Road Community Primary School invited a group of elderly people from the Harrogate Easier Living Project to attend their nativity play.
Ending Loneliness by creating a more open discussion
A lot of our supporter charities emphasise that telling someone you are feeling lonely is often the biggest and most difficult step to take, and one of the aims of this campaign was always to try and encourage a more open dialogue.
We have taken calls from readers who are feeling lonely, and we have been able to signpost support to them.
We would like to thank readers for answering our weekly calls to action and joining us in being open about loneliness, as it has led to people picking up the phone and feeling ready to talk.
How Supporting Older People have ended loneliness this Christmas:
“Some people might not see anybody at Christmas, and for them our Christmas parties might have been their big Christmas event”, said Kate Rogata, director of the district’s Supporting Older People charity.
The charity enjoyed two Christmas parties for older people and volunteers this year: one at The Crown Hotel for its Tea and Talk group, and one hosted by Harrogate Volkswagen.
Children from St Roberts Catholic Primary School entertained guests at the Crown, and over 60 people attended the event at the Volkswagen showroom.
Volkswagen staff have been providing transport to and from the charity’s Tea and Talk group for over a year, and converted their car showroom into a restaurant for a free two-course meal with entertainment, as part of their latest gesture to help Supporting Older People.
Kate said: “We’re really thrilled that Harrogate Volkswagen hosted our Christmas party, we have built up a real relationship. An assistant accountant at the retailer even invited one of the ladies to spend Christmas day with his family.
“Some of our members don’t get to see anyone from one week to the next, so our Tea and Talk sessions really help out, and the Christmas get together was certainly a real highlight for them.
“We are also very keen on getting different generations together, and some of the people we support, their grandchildren live far away, so it was nice for those at the Crown’s Christmas party to see the children from St Roberts school.”
Harrogate Volkswagen have put together a special video capturing their Christmas lunch for Supporting Older People.
Supporting Older People are looking for new volunteer drivers. Contact Supporting Older People on 01423 531490 for more information.