Building Connections: Devon Highlights
Devon Highlights was a community project led by Devon Communities Together, that supported older people (aged 55+) living across Devon, who may have been at risk of loneliness and isolation. Before Covid-19, 6 physical groups were operating in Chulmleigh, Totnes, Teignmouth, Exmouth, Holsworthy and Paignton. During Covid-19 we ran a 121 telephone service for those people that do not have access to the internet or are unsure how to use digital devices. For those that have digital literacy we were using ZOOM to hold groups online, so that participants can still see each other in real time, have a cuppa coffee and talk about activities they are doing.
We are currently talking with other organisations around Devon to see how we can run services in the future, either online or in person, to meet the needs of those who are feeling isolated and lonely around Devon - and we really hope to restart a form of Devon Highlights in the future.
Participants told us:
"[I like that] sessions seem varied and interesting, as do the members of the group"
"I Like the friendliness of everyone and really look forward to Tuesday afternoon"
Find out in our participants' own words how Devon Highlights has been for them!
Activities at our groups, in person or on Zoom, were shaped by the members themselves, according to their interests or hobbies – and included arts and crafts, board games, nature walks, guest speakers, cooking/baking and members hosting cream teas at their home. These warm and welcoming sessions provided individuals with the chance to get to know new people, connect with their local community, explore different activities and interests, and improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Highlights sessions were free to attend and all refreshments are provided when meeting as physical groups.
Why Devon Highlights is needed
Many people feel lonely now and again - but for a worrying number of older people, the feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming and have a damaging impact on physical and mental wellbeing. Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to a single person (Age UK, 2016). Sadly, two fifths of all older people say that the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014).
There are many reasons why older people may feel cut off from their communities – it could be through retirement, disability or illness, no longer being the core of the family, or through the loss of partners and friends. Loneliness and social isolation can lead to depression and other serious health issues, so it is crucial that these issues are addressed.
The Highlights project was supported by the National Lottery’s Community Fund and HM Government – together forming the Building Connections Fund.
READ AN article from the Guardian featuring Ageing Well Without Children, a Devon HIGHLIGHTS partner: 'over 1 million childless people over 65 are "dangerously unsupported" '
To find out more about Devon Highlights, please contact Harry Bonnell by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07984001566.