We decided to create an Age-friendly Neighbourhoods Toolkit after learning that small changes make a huge difference to quality of life for older people. Whilst creating the toolkit we interviewed a variety of older people from communities across Bristol about their experiences of developing their neighbourhoods.
"My husband and I arrived in Bristol in 2014. I didn’t know anyone else here and being an older person, I found myself excluded from the usual places people make new friends when moving to a new area such as at work or university, or meeting other parents at the school gates. I started to search out other activities and volunteering opportunities, and quickly found lots of fantastic ways to spend my time, such as kayaking on the floating harbour with LinkAge, and volunteering with Monica Wills Trust and Windmill Hill City Farm.
Several months after I’d settled into the city, I still felt that I had a purpose here that hadn’t yet been fulfilled. One day in spring, I put a post on a neighbourhood Facebook group, asking, ‘Does anyone need any help?’ In 24 hours, I received 350 likes and 60 comments. They were all really positive, with many people offering to meet for tea and cake, and others suggesting that I set up a group where people could offer and request help from their neighbours, and so - with the help of a tech-savvy friend - I did. People started helping each other straight away, and eventually it led to me setting up a weekly Tuesday morning meeting where anyone interested in volunteering could get together for an informal chat. The Tobacco Factory Café were more than happy to accommodate us, and even offer us free coffee. We now meet regularly on Monday evenings with a group of younger people who work during the day and who want to start up a volunteering meetup for those who are only free at weekends and evenings. The younger people are happy to run this themselves after training from the older volunteers who started the Tuesday session.
I’m particularly passionate about providing befriending support to people living in care homes; before I moved to Bristol I worked for Age UK as an ‘Expert By Experience’ and visited several care homes, and was really shaken by the amount of loneliness I saw. For residents who don’t have family visiting every day, they can end up being thrown into a life where they have very little time spent interacting with others. We have in the past, worked very closely with a local care home, running activities for the residents, such as a giant crossword, sing-a-longs, and church and concert visits.
It’s amazing how many other people with a drive to help others will pop up when you put yourself out there. Just recently, somebody turned up to one of our meetings and offered to do all of our marketing and advertising for us, which is brilliant as the group keeps me so busy, I need all the help I can get from gifted volunteers! Thanks to social media, local press and word of mouth, we’ve made contact with over 1,200 people."