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'Big Society' Thinking for Churches

A Blog Post by Paul Howard- Older Persons Enabler for TNT

How many times this Christmas have you looked into a crowd of people and seen older people and wondered 'Are they alone for Christmas'?

It’s what we do this time of year. This Christmas, especially, the Corona Virus has changed many people’s minds about social responsibility- we have noticed who our neighbours are and tried to help; kind words and deeds have been swapped.

But these wonderful people may be lonely all the year round. Will our new found neighbourliness carry on beyond the Covid vaccination and the sounding of the all clear?

Dementia, isolation and associated loneliness are well recognized problems facing many older people. Children and relatives moving away, together with changes to local amenities and the inevitable consequences of economic and social development upon local Parishes, can all lead to previously active and well connected individuals becoming increasingly cut off from social contact.

These factors are further exaggerated by physical ill health or disability, which can result in reduced mobility and difficulties maintaining existing relationships, together with problems accessing recreational activities, with diminished possibility of meeting new friends and acquaintances.

Older people, who have normally enjoyed good physical or mental health, can have their wellbeing threatened by social isolation, leading to an increased risk of many conditions including Dementia, depression, anxiety and self-neglect. Physical fitness is aided by the motivation, exercise and security that result from regular human contact.

Churches have traditionally addressed the issue of isolation in two ways:

  • Encouraging people to get out of the home and socialize in a Church venue or luncheon club/ coffee morning/ afternoon tea, whichever is available in their Parish?
  • Organizing volunteers to visit people at home (as well as the Vicar), sometimes with the intention of taking them to Church, but often just to spend time and listen.

As part of the ‘Big Society’ concept, Transforming Notts Together has a different approach which retains the advantages of traditional befriending and Church activities, whilst permitting many more people to benefit by greatly increasing both the size and flexibility of what places of worship offer.

Near Neighbours, grief & loss workshops, money management courses, Linking Lives UK, Dementia Friendly Churches... all these will enable local places of worship to expand its own involvement in social action.

To be more socially active and interactive places of worship will need to look at their own members to help deliver these schemes and ideas- but I ask you to consider the older members of your group. We often think that older people would not be interested in such things but I say ask them you will be surprised how many would just love to be involved.

Not only do older people have time to give, they also have talents gathered over many years and many facets of life.

Churches and places of worship will benefit from understanding what Transforming Notts Together has to offer and receive the opportunity to improve their skills and enhance their confidence. Places of worship will benefit by being able to work with people of good will and generosity, to create relationships across communities by bringing people together and to improve the quality of life and enhance the wellbeing of everybody including the older people of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire not just at Christmas but all year round.

Contacting us

We welcome the participation of any Place of Worship wishing to help older people become less isolated. Paul Howard can be contacted on paulhoward81@outlook.com or ring 07827291725

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