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Love Your Neighbour – the impact it makes

Posted by Laura Batatota on 20th February 2022

We've long known the impact of our Love Your Neighbour programme. Evaluations in 2014, 2016 and 2019 showed that, as part of our suite of programmes including Social Clubs and Outreach, one-to-one friendship across the generations help people to feel happier, less lonely, 'part of something bigger than their own lives.'

During the pandemic, we've seen that impact again and again, including in new ways. In spring and summer 2020, we knew that many people were more afraid of social isolation than the virus itself, and quickly learned that one-to-one friendships through Love Your Neighbour (and our adapted Phone a Friend work) were bringing older and younger people alike solace and solidarity, patience and perspective, community and connection.

As we plan now for a different stage of the pandemic, it's important to continually apprise the value of all our programmes, to see what may have changed over the past two years, and whether there are any new benefits of building intergenerational connection in these extraordinary times.

A recent survey and analysis of our Love Your Neighbour programme at South London Cares has shown the evolution of that impact over time. It was only a small sample of 30 older and younger people, but it demonstrates again the power of these friendships across different ages, backgrounds and experiences. The survey told us that:

  • Seven out of ten feel they have made new social connections as a result of being part of Love Your Neighbour. Derek said: “Before Megan visits I spruce up and clean up and I get myself presentable. It's something new. Before, things were routine and mundane. But having a visit and a chat and going out sometimes is really good. It's a booster. I find it very satisfying. I have a friendship from a different social class than me and we get along so easily, and it is surprising but so lovely. She is so knowledgeable, and she can answer my questions and I am not embarrassed."
  • Seven out of ten said being part of Love Your Neighbour had improved their wellbeing. Steph said: “It was so good while I was on furlough and redundant last year to feel that I was doing something useful, but more than that, it's been great to make a new friend", while an older neighbour said: “It makes me feel less isolated, it breaks the day up, when you feel down it's good to talk to someone, it gives you a lift, it's definitely been worthwhile.
  • Half of all participants surveyed said their attitudes towards other generations had improved as a result of their Love Your Neighbour friendship. Roy said: “I like speaking to younger people to see what's going on with them – it's very different from when I was young, especially with things like the job market. She's somebody that I look forward to seeing. If it weren't for South London Cares, I probably wouldn't be talking to youngsters. ”Meanwhile, Coralie said she has gained better insight into the lives of older people: “I genuinely would recommend it to everyone, younger and older people. It brings you so much joy and helps you to be kind to others. I used to get annoyed at older people but since being matched with Dot I understand some of the difficulties some older people are facing and try to be more patient and adapt my behaviour and speech to be more inclusive."
  • Seven out of ten feel an improved sense of belonging as a result of being part of the programme.

The surveys also showed that older and younger neighbours have identified the top four impacts of being part of the Love Your Neighbour programme as:

  • Being able to form friendships
  • A sense of improved wellbeing
  • Having someone to talk to
  • Connecting with someone from a different generation

And our analysis revealed that, while a third of all our current 266 Love Your Neighbour matches across The Cares Family have been friends for a year or under, 44% have been friends for one to two years, 16% have been friends for three to four years, and 6% of our matches have now been friends for over five years.

But these surveys only tell part of the story. The deeper we go into the friendships Love Your Neighbour creates, the more we learn – and the more we can change broader attitudes towards isolation, loneliness and intergenerational connection in general. That’s why we share so many stories with the media, with politicians and with the general public through our social media channels. And it's why we're proud to share two of those stories here.

KateRoy

KATE AND ROY (Manchester Cares)

Kate: "When I was first introduced to Roy, I felt like I'd met a kindred spirit; we have so many mutual interests and it was obvious from the beginning that we would get on. Roy is such a kind and interesting person with so much knowledge and wisdom – I am always grateful that he is so generous in sharing it. We have a joint love of the arts and spend a lot of time talking about writers, music, dance, and theatre. But we can talk about pretty much anything – history, politics, nature, death. Even when our opinions are different, I know that Roy will respect my thoughts and vice versa, and we often have a good old laugh about things. I feel that my friendship with Roy has made my life a lot richer. Before I met Roy, I didn't necessarily feel settled in Manchester, but he has really helped me to feel at home here, introducing me to previously unexplored parts and telling me all about the history of places. His thoughtfulness, fascinating conversation, and just general wonderfulness has really helped me through all the difficulties of the last two years, and I'm very much looking forward to having more fun trips together in 2022. I would really encourage anyone to get involved in the Love Your Neighbour programme; it is so rewarding – and everyone needs a Roy in their life!”

Roy: “One of my highlights was our afternoon tea on the Safari Narrowboat, which is moored in Droylsden and another was visiting Moravian Settlement together, it was just like stepping back nearly 300 years in time! My friendship with Kate has added a much more interesting and pleasurable dimension to my life, it has really added value and I want it to continue for a long time.”

Aimme and Val

AIMEE AND VAL (East London Cares)

Val told BBC Radio 2 that she was so grateful for their friendship:

"You never expect something like this to help you out. You expect to have to get on with it yourself. Aimee has pulled me out of a downer of four months being stuck in this flat. I’m on the up now. Aimee’s like a daughter to me. Listening to Aimee made me feel much younger again. I feel the same age as her.”

And, as with all The Cares Family’s Love Your Neighbour friendships, the feelings of support go two ways.

Aimee told us:

“I first heard about East London Cares on the Reason to be Cheerful podcast. I heard an interview between an older and younger neighbour and was totally invested in what The Cares Family were doing and wanted to get involved. I then searched for my nearest Cares Family and signed up! I think especially over the past 18 months everyone has experienced moments of loneliness. Things that help me overcome that feeling include calling up a friend or relative, and hearing someone else's voice and hearing their stories and what they have to say to get out of my own head and my own thoughts. Another thing is getting outside and connecting with nature and feeling part of something bigger in the universe. It's so lovely to speak to someone of a different generation. Val really inspires me and has been cheering me up. She always has the right thing to say. She perked me up in a really low moment of Coronavirus [when Aimee’s wedding was cancelled]."

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On Valentine’s Day, to celebrate this love in the community and between generations, all of The Cares Family charities posted online about the importance of their Love Your Neighbour friendships. You can read more on Twitter here.

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Thank you for considering a donation to The Cares Family. Your gift will help to tackle loneliness and build connection and community in a disconnected world. Our work is powered by people – so please chip in if you can.

The Cares Family is a UK registered company (10236615) and registered charity (no. 1180638). North London Cares is a UK registered company (07737818) and registered charity (1153137). South London Cares is a UK registered company (8757344) and registered charity (1157401). Manchester Cares is a UK registered company (10893107) and registered charity (1176902). Liverpool Cares is a UK registered company (11166325) and registered charity (no. 1177749). East London Cares is a UK registered company (11809555) and registered charity (no. 1186012).