Wednesday 1st January 2014
Small charity is making a big impact on the “shame” of loneliness
“I love to sing and clap my hands and wave to all my friends. This is the only time I see them. We all enjoy being together otherwise we would never see each other.” Elderly lady from Swindon.
It is a source of ‘national shame’ that as many as 800,000 people in England are ‘chronically lonely’, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
In a speech, Mr Hunt highlighted the "problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society".
"Some five million people say television is their main form of company," he said.
Hundreds of elderly isolated people aged between 53 and 98 that attend day time singing and activity sessions across the West Country organised by the Golden-Oldies charity have given a rousing chorus of approval to the value it brings to their lonely lives.
Started by Bath-based choir leader Grenville Jones only 6 years ago with just four community hall sessions taken by himself, “Goldies”, as it has become fondly known, now organises 70 sessions across the South West of England and South Wales. A further 30 new sessions are planned this year.
The charity patron is Sir Cliff Richard and the tunes sung at the sessions are the popular hits of the 50s onwards. The charity has only one full-time employee and five part-time.
The Golden-Oldies Charity consulted with elderly people across the South West in July who attend the sessions to gain their views and evaluate the work. The activity and singing sessions take place across Swindon, Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Somerset.
The Charity then consulted with Dr Barbra Teater from the University of Bristol to assist in the data analysis. Dr Teater is Programme Director in Social Work at the University of Bristol School for Policy Studies.
Twenty five session leaders carried out the study with 300 Goldies. The overall responses indicated that whilst the Goldies enjoyed the singing, more importantly, they enjoyed the laughter, company and companionship.
The Goldies ethos of giving people a reason to get out was endorsed by the many positive comments related to meeting with other people and making friends, getting out of the house, exercising, and ‘feeling happy’.
The following direct quotes from the Goldies elaborate on these aspects of the Goldies sessions:
“Meeting up with friends, singing along with our brilliant sessions leader and getting a bit of exercise.”
“Rolls back the years for me! I instantly feel younger – in my mind anyway!”
“The change from meeting strangers who have become my friends.”
“The music, the company and our wonderful leader, [name of leader], who makes our sessions so very enjoyable.”
“I love being free to sing and have fun and nobody thinks you’re silly!”
“We have a laugh and joke and good sing. I like watching everyone.”
“It’s somewhere to get me out with some company and have a chat and a sing and meet new friends.
Dr Teater reported;
“The Goldies were also asked to score their feelings at the start and end of the sessions.
“The main findings were the positive ‘feelings’ that were generated from before to after their participation in a Goldies session. The Goldies were asked to rate their overall feeling on a scale of 1 – 10 both before and after a Goldies session the findings indicated that there is an average increase of over 3 points on the scale in feelings from before to after the session.
“More importantly, the Goldies used the whole range of the scale (1 – 10) when rating their feelings before the session and only used ratings 7-10 when rating their feelings after the session. This indicates an overall increase in feelings at a rate of 7 or above after attending a Goldies session.”
The sessions also provided a place for reminiscence and to participate in activities that they enjoyed. The following are a selection of direct quotes from the Goldies:
“Company because I’m lonely.”
“I like singing and to hear the songs. My husband and I used to go dancing.”
“Just love getting lost in the music. Great fun also. Always leave with tunes in my head and a smile on my face!”
“I always came out afterwards so buoyed up, sometimes after a really depressing week. I am told I always came out with a smile on my face. It has been a lifesaver!”
“It takes my mind off aches and pains. I love to sing.”
“Reminds me about my youth.”
“I used to do a lot of singing in my younger days. Goldies has given me an opportunity to sing again and make new friends.”
“Being able to be myself and enjoy myself and enjoy the singing.”
“Lets me forget all my worries for a while.”
The charity is funded by local and national trusts as well as organisations in the areas where the sessions take place.
Founder Grenville Jones said;
“We know that our small charity is making a big difference to lonely lives. Goldies sessions are also attended by people with dementia and learning difficulties.
“We want to grow across the whole of the UK in the years ahead and reach out to thousands. Loneliness is a major issue in our society and Goldies.
“Singing should be on prescription.”
Sir Cliff Richard is the Patron and his well-loved hits are high on the list of popular songs performed each month. Sir Cliff said;
“Goldies really is the smile charity. Goldies is not a choir, but we do use the music to encourage people to get out and meet with others and have fun together through singing. Everyone is welcome and our sessions are attended by elderly people as well as those with learning difficulties, dementia and Alzheimer’s. We all know how powerful music is, and for many people, attending one of our Goldies activity and singing sessions is the only time they get out to be with others.
“If anyone is in any doubt that the power of music knows no boundaries, they only have to go along to a Goldies session!”
Picture 1 shows a group of ‘Goldies’ from one of the Bath and North East Somerset sessions.
Picture 2 shows founder Grenville Jones with one of the ‘Goldies’ who attends the popular weekly session at the Malcolm X Centre, St Paul’s Bristol, launched in 2013.
Contact Grenville Jones on 0777 828 2934 or email Dr Barbra Teater on B.Teater@bristol.ac.uk
For a full copy of the report please email firstname.lastname@example.org
About Loneliness in the UK ;
Loneliness and social isolation in the United Kingdom, supporting information;
Between 6% and 13% of people aged over 65 say they feel always or very lonely (Victor, 2011)
17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003)
Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
Half of all older people (about 5 million) say the television is their main company
63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health (Beaumont, 2013)
A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)