Through in-house qualitative research undertaken in 2012, ninety-four participants aged over sixty-five and living in the East Brighton area of the City were invited to express their views about the need for service provision in the local community.
The results of this research highlighted an overarching need for the development of trusted lasting relationships. In essence individuals said they would like to regularly ‘see a friendly face’, ‘have someone to visit me at home because I can’t get out of the flat’ and simply have ‘time to talk’ with a likeminded friend. This knowledge combined with the ever-increasing evidence base about the damaging and life-threatening effects of loneliness in later life, has therefore formed the basis of the Time to Talk Befriending scheme we run today.
Emily Kenward the Founder and Scheme Manager at Time to Talk Befriending says; “The research we undertook in 2012 was gathered through a social action project that I was fortunate to manage through the Church I attended at the time. http://www.timetotalkbefriending.org.uk/our-service/honouring-older-people-events. We really felt it on our hearts to try and connect with the hundreds of older people that we knew were living in the neighbouring tower blocks and shelter housing schemes, yet rarely ever saw out in the community. As a Church, our motivation for undertaking the ‘Honouring Older People Event’ was to remind the elders living in our community that they were not forgotten and that we did in fact honour and respect them. As well as providing a special event to facilitate this aim, we felt it was important to ask each person what they would like from the community that would help to improve their well-being so that we could work with other local Churches, professionals and agencies we were already connected with to try and meet some of the huge need in our City.
From the offset we have developed strong partnerships with secular governing bodies, inter-faith groups, Churches and Charities such as the national befriending project Linking Lives http://linkvisiting.org/ (formerly Link Visiting Scheme), Age UK Brighton & Hove and local authorities such as Sussex Police; click here to see the research. We recognise that we are much stronger together so if we are going to effectively meet the mammoth need to reduce feelings of chronic loneliness within the older population of the UK, unity and cohesion must exist regardless of whether individuals and organisations are faith based or not.
As a Christian I am personally motivated by putting my faith into action – to show genuine love and compassion towards older people who might otherwise feel invisible and forgotten within society. I advocate the need for organisations like ours to work with people from all backgrounds, faiths and beliefs. In fact I would echo exactly what Pastor Bobbie Houston says that “God has a higher plan for us all – faith based or other – to work together in unity for the well-being of humanity” (The Sister Hood, 2016).