There are 50,000 people over the age of 65 in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who may be at risk of loneliness. Many older people can go a month or more without talking to a friend, family member or neighbour.
Loneliness and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Together we can help end loneliness. It doesn't take a big commitment, or a lot of time.
Watch the "Be More Us" video
Small things you can do to help
Older people in Cambridgeshire have told us that a smile, wave, or hello from another person can make all the difference. It only takes a few seconds to help someone feel less isolated.
- Start with a 'hello', a wave or even strike up a conversation.
- Send a Christmas card to the older people in your street. You could include an offer of help, should they need it.
- Reassure older neighbours by getting another neighbour to introduce you.
- If you call on a neighbour, make your first call short. Give them the opportunity to see who you are, that you are genuine and show interest in them.
- Have a 'mince pie moment'. Host a small, informal gathering on a Saturday or Sunday morning and invite your older neighbours to come along.
- Take 10 minutes each week to phone a friend or family member you haven't spoken to in a while.
- Write a letter to someone who has made a difference to your life.
- Encourage children to greet older neighbours.
Going days without human contact is a reality for a lot of older people. Can you imagine how it would feel to lose contact with the outside world for a week? A video called "The Loneliness Project" shows how hard it can be to be alone for long periods.
Go to community toolkit for tackling social isolation and loneliness
Volunteering to reduce loneliness
Volunteering doesn't have to be a big commitment, to support those in your community who are lonely. Formal volunteering opportunities take from 30 minutes a month.
- Cambridgeshire Library at Home service uses a network of volunteers to take books out to people who are unable to visit a library, and needs more volunteers.
- Care Network Cambridgeshire would welcome volunteers for their help at home service, supporting people returning from hospital, and as community navigators.
- Contact the Elderly holds monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for over-75s and needs volunteer drivers and hosts.
- Friends of the Elderly needs volunteers to help with its day centres, telephone befriending groups and coffee mornings in sheltered housing schemes.
- Royal Voluntary Service wants volunteers who can help an older person with little tasks, such as doing their shopping and taking their dog for a walk, or delivering meals.
- The Silver Line needs people to deliver this new helpline for older people.
- Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has lots of volunteering opportunities and is currently looking for volunteer visitors for the visiting scheme.
- Do-it volunteer for people and causes that matter to you.
Details of local volunteer centres
Volunteer centres can give you advice and help you to find volunteering opportunities.
My volunteering with Care Network has helped give me a different perspective on making a difference in my community and what it means to be more community conscience. I am more aware of the part I play within my community and the impact it has on others. I had a chance to speak with my local councillor recently to let her know how Care Network supports our community and what I do to help support people and make them feel less lonely.
I came to Care Network because I couldn't bear to think that there were people in my village or community who were on their own when there is something I can do to help. It is a humbling experience to know that I can offer any improvement to their life. During my visits I find it rewarding to be able to offer any support with inspiring people to enjoy life again as they used to.
Help if you are lonely
In Peterborough, contact the Peterborough Council for Voluntary Service on 01733 342 683.
In Cambridgeshire, contact Care Network on 01954 211 919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Cambridgeshire County Council website for information on how you can beat loneliness.