In the summer we commissioned some research to understand the impact of our social gatherings on our older guests and here is a snapshot of our findings.
Initially, the benefits felt by the older guests we interviewed are that they are glad to have somewhere to go to, with a welcome and some friendly faces, especially on a Sunday, which can be particularly lonely. The most immediate functional benefits are about getting out of the house and enjoying company.
Over time, the emotional benefits become clearer: a regular, stable commitment is a welcome benefit and our groups become treasured support and friendship networks.
Not only does our work reduce loneliness, but being part of a Re-engage group also has the following benefits:
- Improves health
- Increases confidence
- Helps older people to tackle illness
- Addresses isolation
It has made a difference in my life. I look forward to it, it’s good to have something to look forward to.
Physical and mental benefits
Our social groups address the debilitating experiences of both functional isolation (physical immobility) and emotional isolation (infrequency of contact): older people can feel extremely lonely as a result of both.
The majority of older people in our groups live alone. For them, poor health is a significant fear. Being part of one of our groups gives social contact which reminds older people that there is still life to enjoy when bereavement or ill health strikes.
I’ve been on my own since 1970. I have a cat, I like to speak to people, I want to and like to be with people.
Something to look forward to
Attending our groups can be a strong motivator for older guests to get well after illness. The physical and practical support our social groups provide means that coming out to their group is often one of the first things they can do while recuperating.
Friends at the group ask about them and welcome them back – it gives everyone at the gathering an emotional boost when someone returns from illness.
Re-engaging with their community
The networks and communities created by the groups provide a support structure for everyone when bereavement occurs and for many guests and volunteers, the groups have become a kind of family. For some of the oldest guests, their Re-engage companions are the only friends they still have of their own age.
Ultimately, being part of Re-engage reinforces people’s own significance: for the oldest old it is important to know that someone will notice and care when you yourself go.
It is largely thanks to our 14,500 volunteers that our older guests get so much benefit from being involved with our social groups. Thanks to them, we are able to make a real difference in the lives of isolated and lonely older people in communities all across the country.