For ten years, The Cares Family has brought older and younger people together to reduce loneliness and create inter-generational solidarity. In regular times, this work is all face-to-face. With older people particularly at risk of the awful effects of both COVID-19 and social isolation, and younger people now recognised as the loneliest age group in society, The Cares Family has re-invented its programmes during the pandemic to help people stay connected in a disconnecting time.
In the first year of that pandemic response, The Cares Family brought together 6,832 older and younger neighbours, 75% more than in 2019. 903 older and younger friends shared 859 social clubs in person, online and by phone – a total of 7,827 times. Another 592 friends shared 6,547 conversations on the phone, on FaceTime or in person (at a distance), totalling 3,907 hours. Meanwhile, The Cares Family team made 15,000 calls and 2,000 interventions to help connect older people to other local community services and activities, and distributed 102,430 #AloneTogether activity packs, designed by young people around the country, to over 8,500 older people in the UK.
Evaluations have showed that The Cares Family’s work helps people to feel less lonely, less isolated and a stronger connection to community. It helps older neighbours to feel happier, that they miss other people less, and that they have more people they can rely on. But the beauty of The Cares Family approach is that the benefits are mutual: younger people also feel closer to the community and another generation, and ‘part of something bigger than their own lives’, as a result of being involved. During the pandemic, older and younger people alike have said that their Cares Family community has been ‘a lifesaver’ – offering connection at a disconnecting time.
The Scheinberg Relief Fund has supported The Cares Family’s core programmes, making a difference in London, Liverpool and Manchester. It also provided the seed funding for The Cares Family’s new project, The Multiplier, which over the next five years will help 50 community leaders to bring people together in similar ways, in places across the UK, to build connection and community. In 2021, the first 11 Multipliers entered the programme and are already reporting stronger outcomes in their work and their neighbourhoods.