It comes after the success story of Hayling Island woman Jo Gilbert, 60, and 86-year-old care home resident Olive, who discovered a strong bond which fulfilled both of their lives.
Jo regularly makes the hour-long trip to see Olive in Shottermill House, a care home based in Haslemere run by Christian charity Pilgrims’ Friend Society after they met 20 years ago and has cherished every trip since.
The organisation supports older people to live fulfilled later lives and is encouraging local communities to reach out more to form friendships across different generations, like Jo and Olive, to help combat loneliness.
The campaign comes after an Age UK report from this year projected the number of lonely people in England is likely to rise to around 2 million from 1.4 million by 2026.
Jo said: ‘I’d encourage anyone to reach out and connect to the older generation. They are so full of character!
‘You don’t meet people like Olive very often. She just gives and gives and gives.
‘Olive and I met 20 years ago. My husband, Derek, used to be a taxi driver and he gave Olive a lift to visit her son, who is disabled and lives in a care home. One day he couldn’t go so I went instead.’
The theme for Mental Health Awareness week this year is loneliness, reflecting the challenges of the pandemic and the importance of fostering connection for physical and mental wellbeing.
Research conducted by Savanta ComRes, a market research consultancy based in London, on behalf of the Pilgrims’ Friend Society provides insights into the ways age-diverse friendships can combat loneliness and how these relationships can be initiated.
Deborah, activities and community engagement facilitator said: ‘Olive shared with me that she’s often overcome and cries happy tears because it’s so clear through Jo’s regular visits, gifts and letters that she’s loved. The benefits of the friendship are clear to see in Olive’s general wellbeing and the impact it has on other residents.’
As part of their Friendship Is Ageless campaign, Pilgrims’ Friend Society is encouraging people to connect across the generations by taking five simple steps to combat loneliness this year. See pilgrimsfriend.org.uk/friendship.