Ten years together
People’s Health Trust funded one of the four projects run by Listening Ears and local residents from the Flowers Estate in Greenwich. All of the projects aim to reduce isolation among older people.
Active Communities funded organisation Listening Ears celebrated their tenth anniversary recently. Barbara Simmonds, a Trustee at People’s Health Trust, and the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Councillor Olu Babatola, were among the guests at a special event in December to mark the occasion.
The Trust invested a total of £52,740 in the Feel Good Friday Luncheon Club over three-and-a-half years, using money raised by HealthWisdom through The Health Lottery.
Funding from the Trust came to an end in November last year, but the project continues to thrive.
In this article, Stuart MacDonald, who works in Community Development for the Royal Borough of Greenwich and helped start Feel Good Friday, talks about how the organisation is helping to tackle isolation in the area.
“I got involved with Listening Ears about eight years ago. At that time, there were a lot of lonely older people living in Greenwich, many of whom hadn't spoken to anyone in weeks.
“Depression in older people can be very easy to prevent but very difficult to shift once it is there. Other symptoms and problems start to develop and they end up at the GP’s. The usual response to this is to direct people to various services, many with diminishing resources to help, or offer one-to-one counselling with long waiting lists.
“Recognising that a lot of people around us were alone or depressed, what Olutoyin and I decided to do is start addressing the real causes. We decided to start the Feel Good Friday project, a brilliant and simple idea where people could meet and talk to each other.”
“Instead of professional counselling, real friendships are formed. It's a place where instead of sitting around and watching daytime TV alone, you can take part in fun activities. Instead of staying home being bored and lonely, you can play games with your friends and have a good natter. It's something to look forward to all week and gives us a sense of belonging. Sometimes it's the little things that matter.
“They also have trips out, like going to the seaside in summer. For some, it's the first time they've travelled beyond their local shops for many years.
“Feel Good Friday gives us the choice between just dealing with symptoms and actually doing something to address the causes in a way that’s sustainable.
“The club comes entirely from the community, and responds to the community’s needs. It is defined by the community. We're all part of something - a genuine community with a sense of belonging.
“We're talking about health, but there's no mention of doctors or nurses or anti-depressants. Healthy communities promote health and wellbeing from within. A strong, healthy, sustainable community is its own medicine.
“Making that community takes time. It requires people and resources to become self-sustaining.
“It's not about well-meaning people coming from outside a community coming in and imposing their ideas while they tick the right boxes. It's not about referring people to the right agencies or changing their medication. It’s about supporting and enabling local people to build relationships and make decisions about local issues that matter to them.
“Listening Ears gives older people a chance to get involved in organising and running things, and getting more involved in their community. But it doesn't just help older people, it provides opportunities for younger people to volunteer. It allows people to give something back, trains staff and service.
“All this would not be possible without the generosity of individuals and our funders who've helped us to take a cold unused building and turn it into a valuable community resource which benefits everyone.
“Feel Good Friday lives up to its name. It makes people feel good.”
To connect with Listening Ears, click here.
To read about more great ideas funded by the Trust, click here.