£1m fund to battle isolation of lonely elderly

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Older people in England’s largest county are set to benefit from a £1m fund which aims to tackle the problem of isolation across rural areas where populations are sparse and people can feel cut-off.

North Yorkshire County Council yesterday announced the funding after experts have warned leaving people feeling isolated can have a dramatic impact upon their health and wellbeing, especially in large rural areas.

The Yorkshire Post is campaigning for loneliness to be universally recognised as a health priority in our communities.

Charity Friends of the Elderly recently unveiled its Future of Loneliness report, which claimed almost 375,000 over-60s in Yorkshire are lonely. It revealed that the East Riding and North Yorkshire had the highest numbers of households in the region who have somebody 60-plus who is lonely – one in six, which is higher than the national average.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for public health and prevention, Coun Don MacKenzie, said: “North Yorkshire is home to an increasingly elderly population, for whom isolation is becoming a reality.

“As an authority we are all too aware of the effects of loneliness on health and social care, and that overcoming isolation represents a major challenge across a rural county with sparse populations.”

The council has set up the £1m Innovation Fund which will support projects across North Yorkshire to tackle the problem of loneliness through visual and performing arts workshops, pop-up community cafes, counselling services, and physical fitness workshops. As well as loneliness, volunteer schemes will also help elderly people stay warm during winter months

Projects, which are also supported by a number of other organisations, have been chosen to address three main themes – reducing loneliness and isolation, helping to prevent falls and offering support to people so they can remain in their own homes.

Coun MacKenzie added: “The council is using this investment as a key part of its wider drive to help people to maintain their independence and to encourage local communities to care for their residents.”

North Yorkshire County Council, which is faced with swingeing cuts to its funding from the Government, has stressed it wants to focus on a preventative agenda to give older people the support they need to stay in their own homes for longer.

The authority is looking to reduce the number of people going into care, encouraging them to stay in their own homes or in new ExtraCare facilities which are being set up, where people live in flats but also have access to 24-hour support.

The Innovation Fund, which will see more than £450,000 handed out in the first round, is being managed by Your Consortium, an enterprise which is based in Knaresborough.