City’s £6m loneliness project celebrates a year of connecting people

Ted Hunter is pictured in the frame at the Time to Shien celebration at West Yorkshire Playhouse.''Picture by Simon Hulme
Ted Hunter is pictured in the frame at the Time to Shien celebration at West Yorkshire Playhouse.''Picture by Simon Hulme
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A £6m lottery-funded project to bring lonely or isolated older people in Yorkshire’s biggest city “out of the shadows” has celebrated a year of success.

Leeds’s Time to Shine project was awarded the funding in September 2014 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Ageing Better programme, which handed out £78m nationally for schemes tackling social isolation in older people - including a further £6m to a similar project in Sheffield.

It included older people in every step of its development - and the first projects began work in April last year.

Now, with the help of 19 delivery partners, more than 2.300 older people across the city are involved in Time to Shine.

A celebration event was held at West Yorkshire Playhouse today, with music, dance and poetry highlighting some of the fun elements of the project.

Time to Shine programme manager Rachel Koivunen said: “Older people have been in control of everything we have done, and at the event we heard so many stories of how it is working.

“People spoke about how they’d previously not had the confidence to meet new people, but were now talking about their own stories to groups of people. They have been helped, and so wanted to give something back.

“We are still at the beginning and have a long way to go, but the stories we’ve heard are of people coming out of the shadows.”

Time to Shine is managed by Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF). Some of its delivery partners include Age UK Leeds, Yorkshire Dance, Rural Action Yorkshire, Yorkshire Mesmac and the city’s Neighbourhood Networks, including Crossgates Good Neighbours.

Mrs Koivunen said: “They have taken a really simple idea and made a big difference. A volunteer books a table at a local pub or restaurant for people to meet up and get together. Older people told us they’d be unlikely to go for a meal on their own, but with this, they can meet someone new.
“Real friendships have been made and now people are meeting up outside of the project. Crossgates also have a scheme where volunteers go to the homes of older people who can’t get out on their own for a meal.

“One man, who was an artist, is now giving his volunteer art lessons, and it’s really nice to hear of them swapping skills.”

The Yorkshire Post has been working to highlight the scale of loneliness in the region since February 2014. It is estimated that out of 246,000 older people living in Leeds, around 37,000 can be described as lonely or socially isolated.

For more information on Time to Shine visit