What we are doing
The Cares Family is a group of community networks of young professionals and older neighbours who support and socialise with one another. We exist because, while our cities are exciting, dynamic places – full of cultural and economic opportunity – they can also be isolating, anonymous and lonely.
The Cares Family’s objectives are to:
- reduce loneliness and unwanted isolation among older people and young professionals alike,
- improve the confidence, wellbeing, skills, connection and power of all participants, and
- bridge the gaps across social, generational, digital, cultural and attitudinal divides.
The Cares Family model combines four programmes to meet those objectives:
Social Clubs are regular group activities bringing people together to share time, laughter and new experiences through get-togethers like dance parties, film nights, new technology workshops, dinner parties, business visits and more.
A Love Your Neighbour programme matching older neighbours and young professionals to share friendship one-to-one, often in people’s homes. Friends share a chat and a cup of tea, and those who can often visit the theatre, a local cafe or go to a football match together.
Outreach to help people into the community – by pro-actively identifying older neighbours who could benefit from new interactions where they are. An annual Winter Wellbeing project, for instance, helps older neighbours to stay warm, active, healthy and connected during the most isolating time of year.
Community Fundraising helps neighbours to contribute to their network in additional fresh, involving ways. Older and younger people raise money together through challenges, events, corporate partnerships and by making regular donations.
North London Cares and South London Cares began as small community organisations in their home boroughs of Camden and Islington, Southwark and Lambeth, and have developed into major sister networks with a growing profile and reach across London and beyond.
They grew organically from the grassroots, seeking to understand and respond to the community in real time.
Now, as we look to the future, the Cares Family are seeking ways to expand the model into other big cities, to help more people feel part of a rapidly changing world, rather than left behind by it.
What we are learning
In October 2014, North London Cares published a major impact evaluation, which was funded by Esmee Fairbairn. The research was based on surveys with 150 older neighbours and 150 young professional volunteers in the network, and revealed that:
- 51 per cent of the older neighbours that North London Cares works with are over 80 years old;
- 67 per cent live alone – twice the national average for over 65s;
- 37 per cent say they are lonely 'most' or 'all' of the time - nearly four times the national average (10 per cent);
- 68 per cent have had low wellbeing since getting older - of these, 38 per cent say the lack of social contact is the main barrier.
Yet, as a result of the work of North London Cares:
- 81 per cent said they felt better connected to other people;
- 73 per cent said their isolation had reduced;
- 77 per cent said their relations with young people had improved (84 per cent for those whose relations were previously negative);
- 73 per cent said they are more active;
- 76 per cent said they have access to a greater range of experiences;
- 86 per cent felt more able to appreciate the world.
And of the younger volunteers who participate with North London Cares regularly:
- 98 per cent said they were able to contribute in a way they otherwise would not;
- 98 per cent said they had a greater connection to the community;
- 97 per cent felt that they were more able to appreciate older people.
A further evaluation by Renaisi in 2016 found that:
- The biggest increase in wellbeing was in happiness levels;
- There was an increase in participants indicating that they have plenty of others whom they can rely on when they have problems;
- There was also a decrease in participants highlighting that they missed having people around;
- The evaluation found that, generally, individuals reported a greater sense of community engagement. However, these answers may have been influenced by individual cases, such as people going to the GP every day on account of certain conditions.
Our ambitions to grow through Accelerating Ideas
The Cares Family has identified that there is a need to expand to other major urban populations in the UK who are experiencing a similar pace of change and conditions which cause isolation and loneliness.
- By the end of year five of the Accelerating Ideas programme, two additional sites will each:
- Have delivered 400 social clubs in communities
- Completed three Winter Wellbeing projects and published evaluation reports
- Developed a Love Your Neighbour project with 80 matches in each location
- Engaged between 500 and 1,000 older neighbours
- Engaged between 500 and 1,000 volunteers