Devon Highlights is a community project led by Devon Communities Together, that supports older people (aged 55+) living across Devon, who may be at risk of loneliness and isolation. Before Covid-19, 6 physical groups were operating in Chulmleigh, Totnes, Teignmouth, Exmouth, Holsworthy and Paignton – we hope to restart these in the future!
What is happening with Highlights during the Covid 19 crisis?
Staying social whilst socially distant
Devon Highlights is still operational! Even though we are unable to meet as place-based groups, we are still very much in touch with all our participants. We are now operating a 121 telephone service for those people that do not have access to the internet or are unsure how to use digital devices. For those that have digital literacy we are using ZOOM to hold groups online, so that participants can still see each other in real time, have a cuppa coffee and talk about activities they are doing. In fact, this is a great opportunity for anyone that is 55+ living in Devon who wants to get connected. Devon Highlights is here to connect you in your time of isolation and if you are feeling lonely. If you would like to get involved, please get in touch with us either by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or via telephone: 01392 248919.
Participants told us:
"[I like that] sessions seem varied and interesting, as do the members of the group"
"I Like the friendliness of everyone and really look forward to Tuesday afternoon"
Finally, you can find out more about Referral Pathways, here. As well as individuals we are also appealing for contacts to help us strengthen these Highlights groups and the communities where they take place, so please get in touch.
We have also launched our sound archive as part of the Devon Highlights called #voicingloneliness. This is an opportunity for you to share ‘your story’ around the realities of isolation and loneliness. This is a Devon wide initiative for this unprecedented time in history. We can all relate to some degree to what it feels like to be isolated and the effects of loneliness. To be part of the archive, please find out more by visiting our #VoicingLoneliness page
please note, physical groups are cancelled until further notice
Activities at our groups, in person or on Zoom, are shaped by the members themselves, according to their interests or hobbies – and so far have included arts and crafts, board games, nature walks, guest speakers, cooking/baking and members hosting cream teas at their home. These warm and welcoming sessions provide individuals with the chance to get to know new people, connect with their local community, explore different activities and interests, and improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Highlights sessions are free to attend and all refreshments are provided when meeting as physical groups.
If you are an individual, or know an individual, who may like to join us socialising, please get in touch here.
Why Devon Highlights is needed
Many people feel lonely now and again - but for a worrying number of older people, the feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming and have a damaging impact on physical and mental wellbeing. Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to a single person (Age UK, 2016). Sadly, two fifths of all older people say that the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014).
There are many reasons why older people may feel cut off from their communities – it could be through retirement, disability or illness, no longer being the core of the family, or through the loss of partners and friends. Loneliness and social isolation can lead to depression and other serious health issues, so it is crucial that these issues are addressed.
As well as individuals we are also appealing for contacts to help us strengthen these Highlights groups and the communities where they take place. If you are connected to a group or organisation in Totnes, Paignton, Teignmouth, Chulmleigh, Holsworthy or Exmouth we want to work together to strengthen each other’s work and the community fabric. Additionally, we will run two events, aimed at service providers, in 2020 to destigmatise loneliness, by sharing stories, best practice, research and creating a space for local contacts to network. If you’d be interested to be on the mailing list for these events let us know.
The Highlights project is supported by the National Lottery’s Community Fund and HM Government – together forming the Building Connections Fund.
READ AN article from the Guardian featuring Ageing Well Without Children, a Devon HIGHLIGHTS partner: 'over 1 million childless people over 65 are "dangerously unsupported" '
To find out more about Devon Highlights, please contact Harry Bonnell by emailing email@example.com or calling 07984001566.