Bridging the generation gap to help lonely Londoners

Thousands of older and younger Londoners will be paired up thanks to new funding for a scheme aimed at bridging the age divide to tackle isolation and loneliness.

The Cares Family has received £135,000 from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder – to expand its programmes to people in four London boroughs.

Projects to be funded in Islington, Camden, Southwark and Lambeth include the Love Your Neighbour project – in which younger people drop in for weekly visits to older people in their neighbourhood.

The charity – which operates on either side of the Thames as North London Cares and South London Cares respectively – is currently running the programme as a telephone support scheme during Covid.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee Dhruv Patel said:

“Loneliness is a very real, but often overlooked issue with a detrimental impact on people’s health which research suggests is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“It also affects younger people – particularly those who have moved to the capital and don’t know anyone – and the benefit of the scheme is the simple but really powerful way in which older and younger people support and learn from each other.”

The City Bridge Trust funding is also being used for ‘virtual’ social clubs via Zoom and, once Covid restrictions ease, will fund regular themed social get-togethers such as film, pub and craft clubs.

Meanwhile in north London it is also being used for a ‘Winter Wellbeing’ programme in which staff make wellbeing calls to older people, deliver items such as warm clothing and refer them to other services which can help.

Alex Smith, founder and CEO of the Cares Family, said:

“When we first went into lockdown in March last year, a lot of our neighbours said for them the fear of being socially isolated was as great, if not greater, than the fear of actually catching the virus.

“The activities we’re providing online, by phone and post-pandemic in person are all aimed at building a sense of community and tackling social isolation and loneliness –

and the younger people get just as much benefit from it as their older neighbours.”

The City Bridge Trust funding is expected to help The Cares Family support around 1,000 younger and older people in north London and 2,000 in south London.

The Cares Family operates in north, south and east London and in Liverpool and Manchester. More information is at www.thecaresfamily.org.uk

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case studies

Tony and Callum – ‘I really enjoy the connection it gives me’

Tony Wheeler, 74, and Callum Struthers, 29, from Herne Hill, have been friends on the Love Your Neighbour programme since November 2019. Usually, they meet at the cafe at the end of Tony’s road, get a coffee, and stroll around Brockwell Park. However, during the pandemic that’s been a bit trickier to do so throughout the lockdown, Callum has been creating quizzes for Tony to go through on the phone together – with topics ranging from the TV show The Knowledge to Crystal Palace.

Tony said: “I’ve got a lot to be thankful for after connecting with South London Cares – they’ve helped me out a lot. I was in a bit of dire straits when I first linked up with the charity, I’ve sorted myself out now and things are looking up.”

Callum said: “I really enjoy the connection it gives me to the local community. If I'm honest, I was surprised with how quickly the bond between myself and Tony grew.

“It’s amazing as something so simple as going for a walk each week, grabbing a coffee, can give you such an opportunity to really open up, get to know each other and build trust and friendship. It doesn’t really feel like volunteering, it’s more like checking in with an old friend, catching up and looking out for each other.”

Michael and Dexter – ‘It has become a very close, very deep friendship’

Michael Sharp, 76, and Dexter Harries, 32, from Kilburn, have been friends for a year and a half as part of the North London Cares Love Your Neighbour programme. They’ve been supporting each other through the highs and lows of the pandemic, and have spent over 100 hours chatting.

Michael said: “(Before I was connected on the programme) I thought ‘who wants to listen to me?’ How wrong was I! Dexter and I have become very good friends. It’s such a pleasure to have someone as a friend who is independent to my family. A big thank you to North London Cares for connecting us. It’s so lovely. To me, he’s part of the family.”

Dexter said: “It’s been incredible as a friendship and has far surpassed all expectations I had when I signed up to the programme.

“It has become a very close, very deep friendship unlike any other friendship I have in my life. I’ve not had a deep relationship with an older person. I can speak to Michael about things I can’t speak to my friends about. He’s supported me through a bad breakup and more. We’re there for each other.”

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, has allocated £15.5 million to the London Community Response, set up to help charities deal with the impact of coronavirus, and has also given over £1.7 million in one-off grants to 202 organisations it already supports to help them offset lost income resulting from the pandemic.

The London Community Response Fund is administered by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of Bridge House Estates. The City of London Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge House Estates and Members of its Court of Common Council form the City Bridge Trust Committee, responsible for taking grant and funding decisions for the charity.

Tim Fletcher | Media officer – public services

City of London Corporation

07738 862229 | tim.fletcher@cityoflondon.gov.uk