The UK population is ageing rapidly. By 2040, nearly one in four people in the UK (24.2%) will be aged 65 or over, and the number of people over 85 in the UK is predicted to more than double.
Whilst people living longer is a cause for celebration, it also raises questions about how they are able to live well, and how we can effectively support the mental health of our ageing population. Older people are particularly vulnerable to developing mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, due to challenges which become particularly prevalent in the later life such as bereavement, physical disability, illness and, increasingly, loneliness.
Standing Together Cymru is a three-year National Lottery Community Funded Project from the Mental Health Foundation which aims to improve the emotional health and community connections of older people living in supported housing, as well as to reduce loneliness and isolation.
The Mental Health Foundation leads the project as partnership with four housing associations: United Welsh, Derwen Cymru, Newport City Homes and Melin Homes to address loneliness and improve wellbeing by developing peer support groups in thirty sheltered housing schemes. It follows the success of the Standing Together London project.
Our first set of groups have been running since February 2019. We are thrilled to have over 70 people coming to the weekly groups, with two members of our staff supporting people to build relationships and have deeper conversations than regular activity groups. Using learning from the London project, we have established a new Community Engagement role to ensure that groups are sustained by volunteers, beyond the six months of our staff facilitation.
We explored Mental Health Awareness Week 2019’s body image theme from a later life perspective. Our group member appeared on BBC Wales Radio talking about how to come to accept the change in his body following jaw cancer and recovery.
Standing Together Cymru hosted a public launch event in March 2019. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the success of the project so far and allowed the group participants to see how new connections are being made between older people in South East Wales.
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