Reducing Loneliness: Connecting Communities

In March, InKeith and Strathisla and partner, LEAD Scotland (Linking Education and Disability), held the last of a series of coffee mornings in the rural town of Keith, Moray, giving the opportunity for the community to enjoy a bacon roll, cup of tea and a cake whilst chatting with neighbours and discovering the support on offer from local services.   

Nicola Watson, the Facilitator from IMPACT’s loneliness among older people in rural areas project, asked those who attended for their feedback on approaches to reducing loneliness from across the UK. The approaches up for discussion were selected in response to the views, collected earlier in the project, from people across Moray of what would help to reduce loneliness in their area. 

Nicola asked ‘would these approaches help older people in Moray feel connected?’ and 19 people gave their views by voting (using counters – see image) for the approaches they felt would reduce loneliness in Moray. 

Loneliness in Keith

In Keith, over half of the population is aged 45 and over, and higher than average numbers of people live alone when compared to other areas of Moray.  And the conversation at the coffee morning reflected that of an ageing population with worry for their fellow community members living on their own. 

For the 11 members of the local community and 8 people who deliver services in the Keith area, Dementia Meeting Centres and intergenerational activities were most often selected as ways to reduce loneliness.  

Dementia Meeting Centres are social clubs, open at least one day for 5 hours, for people and families affected by dementia and allow for expert support within ordinary community buildings, for instance, Forfar Cricket Club and Kirriemuir Community Centre. The quote below reflects the reasons given in Keith for their choice: 

“Our friend was struggling to cope caring for his wife with dementia.  He lost weight.  This would have really helped him”.   

The next quote reflects why intergenerational activities, where people of different ages come together for purposeful activities, was chosen: 

“Society is losing this connection.  Learning from older generations is important.”  

Having support available at weekends and evenings was also seen as important, with older people sharing:  

“Saturday and Sunday are long days with no plans.” 

“People feel more shut in with the dark night.” 

The least popular approaches were those that took place in people’s homes or offered information at people’s doorstep, having their “own space” and “getting out” in the community was valued most. 

But no matter the approach, a warm welcome was seen as key to reducing loneliness: without this, connection and friendship would not be possible.