The effects of social isolation in older adults can increase the risk of dementia or other health concerns. According to the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ up to two-million over-50s will feel lonely or isolated by 2025/6. Some older adults can go weeks or months with no contact from another person.
Set up at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, social initiative Connectforce Community saw an opportunity to alleviate loneliness, with a natural fit with the arts world. They’ve fundraised and worked tirelessly to provide UK care homes with electronic communication devices (tablets and laptops) to help older people stay connected with the outside world. To date, they have helped more than 8,000 people in the UK in over 300 care homes.
To go further, they developed virtual befriending programme Connectforce Companions. Since February, volunteers from the arts sector have been Companions for residents at St Peter’s, the Lambeth care scheme run by the Catholic group Little Sisters of the Poor. Connectforce worked with residents living in independent flats adjacent to the care home, what we would call Extracare. Each week, the Companions share a 30 minute video call, to talk about whatever they like. All companions are trained, DBS checked, and personally matched to residents. One volunteer is Tim Bentinckt who plays David Archer in ‘The Archers’. Conversations so far have included chats about cricket, literature, local history, and suggestions of places to visit post lockdown.
Communication and connection
Victoria Basten, co-founder and musical theatre performer, said: “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the wonderful relationships between the ladies at St Peter’s and our volunteer Companions. Both have gained equal joy from their new friendships. It reaffirms just how valuable connection is.”
- Creatives can register on the website for the Companions programme,, or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Care Homes can apply online to be included in the Community Companions schme.
- In recognition of what’s been achieved so far, Connectforce has been awarded National Lottery Community Fund ‘Awards for All’ funding. The goal is to use it to continue develop communication between care homes and the arts.