The Local People project in Boston, Lincolnshire supports older people to identify barriers and bring about change to improve their lives, health and wellbeing.
Led by a passionate group of residents, the Steering Group work together to put into action activities and ideas that are important to the community.
The project’s priorities include helping older people feel safer in their community, improving the local environment, improving access to community information, increasing opportunities for transport around the area, and helping members learn new skills and access activities.
There are a range of activities happening in the community, including Qi Gong, IT classes and a singing group which has now become constituted and has a strong committee – independent of the Local People project. All of the activities are helping expand people’s support networks, reduce isolation and improve health and wellbeing.
A steering group member explained how she first got involved with the project through her job as a health trainer. She explained: “I hadn’t worked for 16 years so I started slowly. I suddenly found I got up and wanted to go into the office. I went from nine hours a week to full-time eventually.
“Part of my role as a health trainer was to integrate people who might have been isolated, usually for mental health reasons, back into the community. I worked mainly with older people but also single mums or people who had moved into a new area.
“When I was made redundant from that role, it was at a loss. A project member said to come along to the singing group, which was like going full circle as I had originally introduced her to the group.
“Now, I am better than I have ever been. I watched my daughter get married and have grandchildren – I wouldn’t have seen any of that without the project..
“The social aspect is key. You don’t have to be good at singing or crafts – it’s not about the activity, it’s about the people.”
One of the biggest challenges for the group is transport. Access to affordable and convenient transport is one of the conditions that affects our health. Without the community transport scheme which is largely subsidised by the project, people wouldn’t be able to come along to activities or get out the house because public transport is limited in the area.
The group are now looking at sustainability of the scheme, with one idea being inviting some of the councillors down to start building relationships and demonstrate how important the scheme is.
Valerie, who uses the transport scheme, has lived in Boston all her life and first heard about the project when she saw an engagement event advertised in the local paper.
After participating in the IT classes for some time, she became a member of the Steering Group. Valerie explained: “As a Steering Group member I help decide and support local activities for older people, including events, an arts project, community transport and afternoon tea events.
Talking about what she enjoys most, Valerie said: “It’s seeing people gain more confidence and get out more, especially those who wouldn’t otherwise get out.”
The Local People project in Boston is supported by Royal Voluntary Service and funded by People’s Health Trust. The Local People programme is a People’s Health Trust initiative which involves supporting residents to develop a shared vision for their community and take action on the issues that matter most to local people.
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