Over the last 20 years, the number of people over 75 who live alone has gone up to 2.2m
All too often, loneliness is the reality for older people and nearly half of older people say the TV is their main source of company.
Social isolation and loneliness are more than an emotional experience, they have huge mental and physical health implications. Older people living alone are significantly more likely to experience health problems, visit their GP or attend A&E.
As the ageing population continues to grow, so does the epidemic of loneliness among older people. We’re the only charity solely committed to tackling this problem by helping older people to re-engage with their communities through regular social contact, giving them a lifeline of friendship and, vitally, something to look forward to.
What do we do?
We exist to provide social connections for older people at a time in their lives when their social circles are diminishing.
In 2019, 8,500 older guests were part of over 900 regular social gatherings across the UK, supported by 14,000 volunteers.
However, in response to the COVID-19 crisis we suspended these social gatherings and created a new telephone befriending service for older people called call companions.
As well as making sure that all those already receiving our support get a regular phone call throughout the lockdown, we are offering a call companion to anyone else of this generation who lives alone or in sheltered housing and feels lonely or isolated.
We plan to make call companions a permanent addition to our work and will continue to run this new service alongside our social gatherings when things get back to normal.
To encourage older people who live alone to develop social interests by bringing companionship into their lives.
To help older people to establish contact with their peers.
To encourage younger people to devote some of their time to helping older people find companionship and new friendship groups.
- REDUCE loneliness and social isolation amongst the UK’s 'oldest old'. Reach the most in need. Help older people to be more resilient and independent for longer. Develop fresh approaches and form partnerships with charities and organisations to extend our work.
- EMPOWER our volunteers and staff and be a first-class volunteer-involving organisation and a great place to work. Develop staff and volunteer training to ensure our programmes are delievered to the highest standards.
- AMPLIFY the voices of older people. Seek their opinions. Work with them to develop new programmes. Create communications that include older voices. Develop a reputation as a thought leader that conveys the views of the over-75s.
- CHALLENGE ageism. Develop Re-engage as an intergenerational community. Ensure that members are treated as equals.
- HARNESS technology to deliver the best possible communications, volunteer and staff experience, and impact measurement. Take a 'digital first' approach. Use technology to reduce distances across our dispersed team.
- Support a greater and more diverse group of socially isolated and lonely older people...
- …by diversifying our activities and reaching new audiences.
- Attract and retain volunteers with an excellent engagement programme...
- ...especially volunteer leaders who would like to take on extra responsibility.
- Ensure our staff are engaged and supporting and training our volunteers well.
- Use digital tools to measure impact and make sure we’re effective...
- …and build our brand to share our successes and grow awareness and raise more funds.
- Support all of this with effective use of IT and digital for programmes delivery, communications and engagement.
- Use impact stories to raise more funds...
- …and communicate effectively to reach the people who really need us.
1. Increase the number of older people we help by 15% year on year with a target of reaching 13,000 in the year 2022-23:
- Diversify the range of groups we develop to include reading groups, activity groups, and other groups as well as our core work of tea party groups.
- Develop alternatives such as befriending programmes which are in-person, telephone-based, and use IT to help us grow in areas where our current model is difficult to deliver (rural areas where distances are too great, urban areas where drivers and hosts are hard to recruit) and to sustain contact with older people who can no longer get out to groups.
- Form delivery partnerships with charities, social enterprises, and companies which will provide expertise in the new activities to complement our expertise in recruitment of older people and volunteers.
2. Grow and diversify our client base of older people and include more men, diverse ethnicities and cultures, and LGBTQ+ groups:
- Collaborate with funders and referral and delivery partners committed to diversity and inclusion.
- Seek opportunities for partnerships and mergers with organisations that will help us to diversify.
- Explore new services, including paid for services, and new delivery models to help find fresh ways to reach older people.
3. Develop a scalable volunteer management model that will allow us to grow our volunteer base year on year, develop fresh volunteer roles, and provide an consistent volunteer experience:
- Develop a volunteer portal to deliver the fundamental aspects of the volunteer journey: recruitment, application, onboarding, induction, day to day support and training, recognising and rewarding, and exiting.
- Deliver essential and optional training to volunteers ranging from safeguarding, guiding older people with mobility issues, dementia friends, and courses that might encourage our volunteers to consider caring careers.
4. Develop our senior volunteer roles to diversify and increase our impact, recruiting and training four new Area Coordinators each year:
- Improve the role of Group Coordinator, offering greater support and training.
- Increase the number of Area Coordinators and ensure that they are all fully trained and supported.
5. Put in place professional policies, processes and practices for staff management to ensure we are a great place to work:
- Sustain and grow a culture of openness which welcomes new ideas, great habits and behaviours, and dynamic communications.
- Give local staff responsibility and accountability.
- Invest in systems which will help us sustain improvements in information use and upgrade manual systems.
- Reduce our footprint in London to keep a London base affordable.
- Develop a Resource Hub of experts and expertise across the country and increase home-based working reducing cost and retaining talent.
6. Put in place a monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) programme which will demonstrate our impact.
- Train volunteers to collect impact data.
- Combine qualitative and quantitative research to give a rounded view of our impact.
- Use impact data as the basis for programme development and to attract funds.
7. Grow our brand in support of our service and our beneficiaries:
- Continue to grow awareness on and offline through social and traditional media.
- Position ourselves as an organisation which is having an impact on multiple lives and in direct contact with thousands of older people, all of whom have stories to tell.
- Give older people a voice through press and social media by creating communications campaigns which highlight the fact that older people have a valuable role to play in society and have deep knowledge and interesting opinions.
- Use these campaigns to draw attention to our work to increase awareness and raise funds.
- Ensure that all our volunteers and older people are aware of the brand and feel part of the Re-engage community.
8. Develop IT systems that will allow us to deliver on our service delivery and people management goals:
- Work with our older people to better understand their technical competencies.
- Partner with companies and charities to deliver programmes which use technology.
- Use technology as the tool for our monitoring and evaluation programme.
- Focus on online systems and develop best practice via the volunteer portal for our 14,000 volunteers and staff management systems.
9. Grow our income in line with our growth in numbers and diversify our income streams:
- Use our large network of volunteers and older people and our significant social media following to attract funds.
- Develop impactful programmes and innovative ideas to attract multi-year funders.
10. Amplify the voices of the older people:
- Put older people’s views at the centre when developing new programmes.
- Use social media to grow awareness of older people as ‘people like us, just older’.
- Give older people opportunities to get involved in research projects run by other organisations by partnering with charities and companies that aim to help older people.
In 1965, a young man called Trevor Lyttleton encountered an older woman living near him in London. She was alone and had no electricity in her house. Saddened by the realisation that she was just one of many people living like this in the borough, Trevor decided to do something to help older people in his area.
Trevor contacted the Marylebone Welfare Department and, with friends, visited a total of 12 older people and invited them on a visit to Hampton Court. After a successful first meet up, Trevor decided to set up further groups.
Trevor Lyttleton, MBE
I received a Christmas card from one of the older ladies, simply saying: ‘At last I have something to live for!’, and I think this more than anything else made me realise how much more we could do.
In September 1965, the organisation which was then called Contact, was granted charitable status. Several years later, the name changed to Contact the Elderly. Then, in 2019 under the leadership of our current CEO Meryl Davies, we launched our new name and brand – Re-engage.
One small act of kindness has grown into a national charity - in the last year alone, we've helped 8,500 lonely and isolated older people.
Find out more about the people behind our organisation
What our older guest said about our friendship groups
said they now have something to look forward to
said their wellbeing has improved since joining us
say what they enjoy most about the gatherings is the company
There are 5.4m people aged 75 and over in the UK and with an ageing population, that number is set to grow.
We’ve been fighting loneliness and social isolation among older people for more than 50 years and we want to make sure that we can continue to do so for the next 50 and beyond.
Our values are
Join us on our campaign to bring dignity and respect to people as they age.