26 June, 2024

Age Friendly Social Housing Programme: Two key loneliness interventions

As part of the Age Friendly Social Housing Programme, a partnership of housing providers in Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP) organised a number of multi-agency community events held over the last six months, aimed at residents over the age of 50. Additionally, they created the Make It Happen Fund, giving residents the opportunity to lead their own projects to reduce loneliness and isolation.

A range of activities ensuring there was something for everyone

The events and the Make It Happen Fund brought together a range of local organisations, producing a multi-faceted offer for residents: they could engage with providers about local activities, access digital support, engage in cooking demonstrations, take away winter warmer freebies, try out craft and gardening taster sessions and have tea, coffee and cake.

Following the events, the Age Friendly team analysed what had worked well and the impact of the events and the fund, which lead them to identify two key loneliness interventions.

The effectiveness of the events in reducing loneliness and isolation

  1. Co-producing the events with residents gives people a sense of involvement, empowerment and ownership, and makes it more likely that they will continue to engage in community participation activities. This sense of involvement and achievement are critical in enabling people to feel like they belong in their community and that they have something valuable to offer.One resident expressed that she would like to “live the rest of her life at the scheme and die here” because of the sense of belonging she feels to the small group of people who meet regularly and who inputted their ideas into the event.
  2. Multi-agency events connect people with wellbeing activities and services that they may not otherwise know about. There are lots of reasons that older people may be particularly disconnected from what’s going on in the community – some of the things we have seen include loss of confidence, connection and increased isolation since the pandemic; mobility and health issues reduce people’s community participation; information about events and services has gone digital and many people are left out.What difference does it make to be connected in this way? People can make informed decisions about their lives,  can reach out for support if they need it, can start to create social circles, can engage in new and fulfilling activities, etc.
  3. The events included opportunities for people to overcome barriers to connection in a way that suits them. For example, we offered drop-in digital support, ultimately enabling people to be able to connect to services and loved ones. People got to engage in taster activities before committing to them – integrating activities into an informational event was a way to boost people’s sense of in-the-moment wellbeing.In 2024, we brought these events to resident’s schemes, giving them an easier way to access support. This is particularly useful for those that have not been out for a long time, as they only needed to come downstairs to their lounge to get support.
  4. Community events improve people’s sense of belonging because it gives them the chance to make micro-connections and build “weak ties”. Marmalade Trust talk about how ‘weak ties’ can have a significant effect on our sense of social connectedness and belonging. Weak ties are more acquaintances, familiar faces or even friendly strangers we might share a moment with.Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Essex, found that participants with larger networks of weak ties tended to be happier overall. On days when a participant had a greater number of casual interactions with weak ties: e.g. a barista in a local coffee shop, a neighbour, a member of a yoga class or a fellow dog walker – they experienced more happiness and a greater sense of belonging.
  5. Increased visibility of the housing association and community services. Many housing association residents feel disconnected from their housing association and the support available. For some, their only means of contact with the housing association is through their housing officer, and many people don’t even know who their housing officer is.  These events are critical in increasing housing association visibility, enabling people to feel connected to their housing providers and access the support they offer.
  6. Providing a whole systems approach to the person. When agencies and services come together, residents can be supported to address various issues and can be supported in multiple aspects of their wellbeing. As well as the long-term positive effects of connecting people to this support (including improved health, wellbeing, confidence), the sense that there is a support system behind every resident can improve a person’s feeling of belonging to their community.

“It was a lovely atmosphere. I don’t often come down to the lounge but I enjoyed it so much that I missed my other club to stay on. I got to see my neighbours too who I don’t see much.”


The ‘Make It Happen Fund’: resident microgrants

What did we do?

Across Southwark, Bradford and BCP, we offered grants of up to £500 to social housing residents to run their own projects that respond to loneliness and social isolation. 27 grants have so far been awarded.

Age Friendly Coordinators and a panel of housing providers developed an accessible and light-touch application form, responded quickly to applications, and offered support to applicants to deliver their ideas and deliver projects.

Residents applied for all sorts of things, including exercise and art classes, equipment for their own groups and activities, social events, and improvement to indoor and outdoor communal spaces.

The outcomes

What made this fund particularly effective?

The offer of micro-grants to residents shows clear promise for reducing loneliness and isolation by building connections, building people’s confidence and motivation to engage with others, among other benefits.

However, change is needed to the approach to increase up-take by residents. It is recommended that staff members should take the time to engage in conversations about loneliness and idea generation with residents, the application process should be simple and accessible, there should be a focus on residents using their own skills and experience.

Resident feedback

“I feel more confident mixing with people and in myself.”

“We can’t stay stuck at home. We need to get out and get to know people.”

“You won’t feel lonely when you come here.”

“Others have said I know where to knock if we need anything.”

Learn more

If you would like to learn more about the work being done by the Age Friendly Programme, get in touch with HACT Programme Manager, Paramjot Kaur.

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