History Centre working as a partner to help ease isolation

on Wednesday, 13 May 2020.

Celebrating Age Wiltshire receives £385,500 from the National Lottery Community Fund to improve health and wellbeing of older people living in isolation

As people around the world are asked to keep their social distance, for many older people the difficulty of living in isolation is all too familiar. With a tremendous new £385,500 grant award from the National Lottery Community Fund, the pioneering ‘Celebrating Age Wiltshire’ partnership project will increase support for the county’s older and most vulnerable people through a transformational five-year programme.

The project, which has been running since 2017 with funding from the Arts Council, Baring Foundation and Wiltshire Community Area Boards’ Health and Wellbeing Project Grants, uses cultural activity as a vehicle to improve the health and wellbeing of older people, including those who are socially isolated or vulnerable due to dementia, reduced mobility, ill health or caring responsibilities.

Wiltshire Music Centre leads the initiative with regional partners Pound Arts, Wiltshire Creative, Age UK Wiltshire, Wiltshire Libraries, Community First Wiltshire, and Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, who work together to deliver a year-round programme of specially-curated, free-to-attend monthly events for older people in community settings. From concerts in care homes to dance workshops in village halls, reading groups in libraries and reminiscence events in sheltered housing residents’ lounges, the partnership draws on its breadth of expertise to deliver a wide-ranging programme which engages thousands of older people every year. Over the last three years, there have been over 4,000 participations in Celebrating Age Events.

Through these informal events, the project provides an opportunity for older people to socialise, to share sensory experiences, to meet new people and to find out about other activities and support available to them locally. It also aims to establish new personal and community connections that are so important in the prevention of loneliness and feelings of isolation.

“I do get very upset because I’ve got the most gorgeous flat – there’s 96 flats there – and it’s like a ghost town.  You do not see a soul….  I find that coming to see these [events] is like a new lease of life – it’s like, you know… to see people, because I make sure that I go down to [name of town] every day – even if it’s only to talk to the dogs!  I’ve got to talk to somebody every single day because otherwise I would have a nervous breakdown.” Elsie, Celebrating Age Wiltshire participant

Over the next five years, Celebrating Age Wiltshire will use the new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, to significantly scale-up the reach and impact of the project. The funding will enable the continuation and development of activities across six existing project areas (Trowbridge, Calne, Amesbury, Corsham, Salisbury and Royal Wootton Basset), and support the most isolated and vulnerable older people in these communities. Furthermore, the grant will enable the project to expand into four new areas (South West Wiltshire, Melksham, Warminster, Chippenham), to support the wellbeing of thousands more older people through 100 events every year.

Critically, the funding will also support partnership development – which has been vital to the strength and success of the project to date, advocacy, networking and sharing activities, including artist development days to support sector-wide development, as well as strategic work to embed  Celebrating Age Wiltshire in social prescribing activities and adult social care initiatives across the county.

“We believe in the power of culture and heritage to bring people together and transform people’s lives – Celebrating Age Wiltshire is evidence of just how important and effective this is for older people. We are absolutely thrilled to receive funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to enable this vital project to continue and grow, to improve the wellbeing of lonely and isolated older people in our communities.” James Slater, Artistic Director, Wiltshire Music Centre (Lead Partner)

The five-year programme will begin in autumn 2020. In the meantime, Celebrating Age Wiltshire continues to reach out to participants digitally, via online concerts and events shared through Wiltshire Music Centre’s YouTube Channel and broadcasts on BBC Radio Wiltshire.

More information about the project can be found here.

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