Creative Connections, is funded by the Colyer Ferguson Family Trust and aims to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable, lonely older people, encouraging continued independence through creative activities and increased digital inclusion.The project is led by Espression Arts with support from Kent Arts and Wellbeing.
The approach to wellbeing and creativity reflects NICE (NG32) best practice for promoting mental wellbeing, and the Age UK Wellbeing Index in Later Life, identifying creative and cultural activity as the most important determinant of wellbeing. We will therefore
1. Expand our support network for people at risk of deterioration in mental wellbeing.
2. Involve individuals at risk, in developing relevant creative activities, that will
a. meet their situation and needs
b. engage them in rewarding, fun activities, at times to suit them.
c. help them feel confident, reassured, connected to people who empathise with their struggles and issues.
d. help create sustainable, positive peer support networks and avoid escalation of problems.
3. Understand the broader context of loneliness in our communities. Its links with mental health and significant life events, to be able to focus more effectively in future.
4. Develop digital capability to enable older isolated people develop and sustain connections with friends and families
The project is a continuation of existing activities and we want to continue to focus on older people, in sheltered accommodation (Lang Court, Whitgift Court and a new setting to be agreed) . Without the support that is available in residential care they have been particularly disadvantaged by the pandemic. We also want to focus on the 8% of older people experiencing high levels of loneliness. often without support networks , and where wanted to provide 1:1 coaching to alleviate digital exclusion and reduce social isolation.
.We aim to engage with 105 beneficiaries and meet project objectives by
- Running 18 creative sessions for 15 residents at each of 3 sheltered housing locations, delivered on alternating weeks, between May 2021 and March 2022. The sessions will be of up to 2 hours face to face duration, or delivered as personalised, one-to-one, support via telephone/or online. In addition:
- Establish and support location specific WhatsApp groups to share creative ideas and support opportunities.
- Encourage key off site carers to be engaged in creative activities.
- Delivering 3 sets of 6 Creative Coffee Morning sessions for up to 60 older people at risk of loneliness, deterioration in mental wellbeing. These 2 hour face to face sessions covering a range of creative activities will be held monthly. We will also establish and support:
- wellbeing visits and calls to enable them to build friendships, take part in interest groups and support others less fortunate than themselves
- Monthly online meet ups “creative network”
- Social media themed groups to cater for shared interests
- Identify up to 20 individuals from participants who are willing to learn an online capability. Coach them (4 hours each) in digital technology to help meet their social contact needs, interests, links with family, reducing feelings of social isolation, overcome disability which restricts access to information.
- Provide up to 5 tablets to enable digital access.
- Produce a participant led, low-cost project video to be shared online along with news/gallery items to chart the project.
- Continuously monitor and evaluate and use a questionnaire to determine the relationship between loneliness, mental health and life circumstances in our local communities. An end-of-project report, shared with other local organisations will be produced.
The positive outcomes we aim to achieve are that
• Service users will realise
- Improved wellbeing through a sense of achievement, an improvement in self-worth, confidence, independence
- Improved social connectivity, reduced isolation, loneliness
- Increased capability to do their own thing
- Improved and new digital skills, reinforcing their social connectivity and independence
- Peer Support Groups enhancing resilience to deal with challenging events
- Increased sense of community
- The volunteers will benefit from
o Reward of giving, and positive feedback from appreciative service users
o Learning and personal growth opportunity of working with and supporting a wider range of vulnerable adults
- Service providers will
o Better understand the needs of older people at risk of deterioration in their mental wellbeing
o Learn and better understand how to combine and use face to face and online activity to provide improved service user experience
- The community will benefit from
o Happier, more resilient and engaged older people better able live independently, avoiding huge costs falling on community services
o A cohort of trained, experienced, committed volunteers able to provide support in the future
o A final report making learning transparent and transferable
We want to provide sustainable benefits:
1. The confidence gained and skills developed by participants are sustainable leading to longer term capacity to deal with future challenging events.
2. A more positive coping attitude from participants both in sheltered housing and the community to take part and have a go
3. Enduring close personal support networks, and social media groups
4. A community capability to support older people to become comfortable with digital communications to improve their social networks
5. Learning the extent to which IT outreach can supplement face to face support, its impact on running costs and home working; and its ability to extend service provision hours to meet individual needs.
6. An enhanced community capability with a significant cohort of volunteers, who have already demonstrated their durability, who can work effectively both online and face to face with an increased service user base
7. Shared learning through report, and video to generate future funding and partnerships.
8. The potential to use the learning to engage in wider community collaboration with other partners both locally and more widely in Kent.
9. Raised awareness and education around issues of loneliness and mental health