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A social club

Moments of connection, in disconnecting times

Posted by Johanna Brooks on 13th December 2021

We’re approaching the end of another challenging year and — whether through ongoing lockdowns, fear of social contact, newly ingrained habits or further social and generational separation — researchers fear a ‘looming mental health crisis'. What’s clear is that the last year has not just revealed our loneliness crisis, it has deepened it.

Today, young people are almost three times more likely to have experienced loneliness than other groups, with 44% admitting feeling alone and 28% feeling lonely ‘most or all of the time’, while many older people have been further isolated from others, stereotyped as ‘vulnerable’ or required to ‘shield’ from the rest of society.

But human relationships matter doubly in times of challenge and change, and over the last year, we’ve witnessed countless moments of connection – where neighbours have come together to laugh, chat and offer solace to one another.

Interconnection on the internet

During the pandemic, we have continued to be led by our person-centric approach, building trust, rapport and connection with our community. Through this work, neighbours have grown in confidence and we’ve been treated to social clubs hosted by neighbours for their community on a topic they are passionate about. In the lockdown at the start of this year, Sarath gave a virtual talk on Sri Lanka. Sarath told us:

"I was a bit concerned because I'd never run zooms before but I really enjoyed it! I loved seeing how interested everybody was and how many questions they had about Sri Lanka, it was great. I've really enjoyed these clubs hearing about different places and cultures. There was also a wonderful club run by a younger neighbour all about Mongolia, it was fascinating."

Norma also shared her skills with her neighbours. Over the pandemic, Norma learnt the ukulele and offered to run a session telling us all about her journey to becoming a ukulele maestro, something we definitely weren't going to refuse!

"I must confess I was a bit nervous before the club," said Norma "I'm actually pretty quiet and I wondered whether this would be something I would be able to do. When I started the club I was really pleased to see so many nice people and they were so supportive and positive! For me, playing the ukulele has been like my five a day because it looks after my mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and social health and it always makes me feel better"

Finding solace face-to-face

Over the year we’ve had countless stories of neighbours finding solace and connection at Social Clubs. So far our transition back to face-to-face activity has been a great success, with many neighbours delighted to be out and about again, and in many cases seeing friends face-to-face for the first time in over a year.

Indrani (68) has attended 21 Social Clubs this year

"I get lonely living on my own, but you guys make me feel part of something."

Susan (56) has attended 13 Social Clubs this year

“They’re the highlight of my week. Your organisation really stood out from others - because it's not just about younger people helping out older people. There's a misconception that only older people get lonely, but that's really not true."

Jill (71) has attended 16 Social Clubs this year

“You meet all these different, vibrant, clever new people. It’s that feeling of belonging, of being part of the community.”

Clare (66) has attended 41 Social Clubs this year.

“Your social clubs, and seeing younger neighbours has made such a big difference in a difficult time”.

Connecting with others on Love Your Neighbour

In tricky times, one-to-one friendships between Love Your Neighbour matches have been shown to be so valuable. The average friendships last over two years, and we know that the relationships formed are both authentic and mutually beneficial.

“We have so much in common and lots to talk about,” William (82) of his friend Maddie (26).

“He has helped me learn more about my identity. He encourages me to be stronger and to be curious. He inspires me to love life and live it to the fullest," Norah (22) of her older friend Zaki (88).

It’s made a big difference for me because I feel like the older generation isn't a generation I'm around often, so to be able to speak to Sheila makes me feel like I get to know someone who's a lot older than me, hearing her stories, hearing the things she's gone through." Juliana (33) of her older friend Sheila (91).

"She came into my life and she made a difference. Flo comes here and I find her very kind, very honest, very very very helpful and she understands. I look forward to seeing Flo and sometimes you learn something new. It's good to learn about the younger generation. There's been changes to my mental well-being. Being locked down here I became negative on my own with nobody to talk to. I was seeing everything grey but joining South London Cares - you call me and ask me how I am - I start to think positive. There are people to help you and are nice." Yvonne (70) of her younger pal Florence, 29.

From a moment, to a movement

The tide of the pandemic is slowly going out, and as it recedes we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a difference. Empathy for those experiencing loneliness has increased and evidence shows that while people don’t believe the government can fix the crisis, local community progress is possible. With our bottom-up, community-led approach we want to build on our decade of experience and turn the thousands of individual moments of connection we’ve witnessed in our communities into a movement around the country. That’s why, as we look to 2022 and beyond, our plan is to go deeper within our local communities, bring people together again ‘after’ the pandemic; share these stories with people everywhere to help inspire and support further action; and, by working with partners, to spur a national ripple effect of connection.

Donate today

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).