Last week we were delighted to be invited along to Bradford’s Older People Reference group to present Have a Go Heroes. An excellent example of valued support within the community, the group was a great place to explore how Have a Go Heroes might be able to help create more of the same through new ways of connecting people.
We opened the session with a short presentation explaining what Have A Go Heroes is all about and how we looking for new ways for people with a range of care needs (big or small) to support one another, giving them easier access to both social and practical support through their trusted network – as well as making it easier for those who can offer a little help and get involved themselves.
For this session, we wanted to explore how older people felt about their community (in the widest sense), the role it played in their daily routine, and if they felt comfortable with more contact from those in their local area. The discussion centred around a few key questions…
What does the word ‘community’ mean to you?
What activities would you like other people to know about?
Do you feel part of your community?
Do you feel the community could provide more support for older people?
Would you be interested in getting to know the younger people in your community?
How do you communicate with people in your community?
We heard ideas and concerns that reflected findings from our visit to Birmingham’s older people group. For instance, if there is not something particularly ‘wrong’ such as a medical issue, people are often unsure where to turn to. One participant called this a lack of ‘tender loving care’ in her life, particularly when leaving hospital, or coming back to her house after staying with family. A few members of the group discussed the concern that many of their friends felt disconnected from – or even frightened of – young people. The church and similar community groups were held up as strong services that helped older people get involved in their local area, as well as being a place to meet new people.
What part of your routine do you value?
We asked each participant to mark the ‘bright spots in their day’, leaving the question open enough to show whether contact was something that was missing, needed or valued. After collecting all contributions, and reading through some incredibly insightful (and often funny!) posts, we highlighted three rough areas that emerged… simple pleasures, social contact and service support.
These ‘bright points’ of people’s days were often the smallest part of their entire routine. Suggestions such as ‘the neighbour’s cat popping in’, ‘my husband coming home from work’ and simply ‘waking up in the morning for a brand new day’ cropped up. Often these simple pleasures do not rely on social contact, and cherished moments often come from a little time alone – which is an important point for us to take into consideration.
Here we noticed frequent contact with those already within older people’s trusted network, such as ‘lunch with friends’ ‘helping Christine with her shopping’ or ‘seeing my grandchildren’. A considerable amount of post-its highlighted that being alone for long periods of time, or living far away from family, were consequentially the ‘low points’ of people’s routine. Perhaps it is in this area where Have a Go Heroes could create that little bit of extra social contact in people’s lives.
We could see here how services played their roles in making real differences to older people’s lives. Some local community programmes appeared over and over again, with many suggesting that existing support needed to be publicised a little more widely to reach those who were extremely isolated.
Meeting, connecting and establishing relationships with younger people and working families also appeared quite frequently, as well as valuing the opportunity to share skills and volunteer themselves, something that we have blogged about before and are interested in exploring further.
I would like…
With these conversations in mind, we asked everyone to complete the sentence “I would like…” to bring together their thoughts on community, informal and formal support they value and what they feel might be missing in people’s networks. Here are some examples that reflect popular themes and suggestions…
We’ll be reflecting on these lessons and posting a blog on next steps later on in the week. It was a great opportunity to talk to potential service users, and we’ll be continuing our conversations with Bradford’s reference group – and hope to return to show how their feedback has been incorporated into the project.
If you feel as though you could help, or would just like to let us know what you think of what we’ve been up to so far, please feel free to comment below or tweet us over on @HaveaGoHeroes. We’d love to hear from you!