Posts Tagged ‘befriending’

The roles of older men in community

Feb 25 2013

Just being there is a start!

It’s now well documented that older men are a high risk group for loneliness, depression and related issues: this is especially ironic since there are so many ways that older men can help those around them, and it’s also well documented that helping others is one of the best ways to help yourself too.

One role where older men are uniquely needed is in mentoring for younger men.  Crime, drugs and education are among many areas where young men have worse problems than young women: for example, 80% of kids excluded from schools are boys.  Two thirds of all male criminal offenders are under 30.  It’s clear that the lack of fathering and older male role models has been a major factor in these problems, and mentoring for young men can help.  Put simply, it involves an ongoing supportive relationship with an older man who has suitable skills and experience.  It’s not therapy, and it’s not really a fathering role.  In traditional tribal societies, initiation and guidance of young men didn’t come from their fathers, but from the elders of the tribe.

A Band of Brothers and Journeyman UK are two organisations whose programmes mentoring young men are well-designed and maintained.  Many mentoring programmes are for young men in trouble, but there’s also a need to help young men who are a bit lost and unsupported.  The Prince’s Trust and Community Service Volunteers offer ways to help in this area.  If you’re in a local men’s group, you might explore what you could do together.

One reason why older men are reluctant to get involved in mentoring or other community work is that they don’t believe they have the right skills.  This reflects the typical male conditioning that if we see a problem, we have to know how to fix it.  It’s very clear when you talk to those running mentoring programmes that the last thing these young men need is someone to fix them.  As an older man, what you really need to do is be there for them, hear them, witness their journey, and share some of your own vulnerability.  Involvement in this kind of work can be a great way to learn that being there is enough.

There was a touching piece in the Guardian in January 2013 about a frail 87 year old woman wanting to contribute to her local community, and a range of great ideas on how she could do so.  Even if you don’t feel you have many skills or much energy to contribute, if you’re willing to take a step and look around, you will certainly find opportunities.  Local charities, conservation projects, food banks, would be a few of the places to start the exploration .

Second UK Men’s and Boys’ Conference, November 2012 – MB50 review!

Nov 27 2012

Not so much a movement, more a bunch of tribes and nomads

This one-day conference in Brighton was so vivid and varied that it feels risky to offer an overview in one blog post – but here goes!

There were lots of illuminating surprises for me at this conference.  One was learning about the extent of systematic disadvantage men face in several areas.  For example, there are a lot more support resources for women coming out of prison than men: but 95% of the prison population is male.

My impression, confirmed by this conference, is that there isn’t really a men’s movement in the UK: not in the sense of a sizeable, active, coherent group pursuing specific agendas.  A fairer description, coined by Glen Poole, the prime organiser of this conference, is a loose network of tribes and nomads.

Even the term network overstates things, but that may be changing.  Glen and others from Brighton have set up the UK Men’s Network: currently it doesn’t quite merit that description, but they are expanding their website, starting a list of UK men’s organisations, and planning an e-newsletter.

For International Men’s Day, November 19, the UK Men’s Network produced a useful list giving their view of the top ten issues for men and boys in the UK currently.  We have now posted this on the Men Beyond 50 Network, and it is on the Network website.

Another surprise about this conference was that around 20% of the 140 people attending were women.  The aim of the event was to bring together a wide range of organisations working with men and boys, and it’s understandable that some of the people doing this work are women.  I was glad to see that women delegates were joining in discussions, and made some of the presentations: there was no sense that they felt inhibited by a male-focussed event.

It was less of a surprise, more of a relief, to see the emphasis so many speakers placed on improving rights, funding, services for men without disadvantaging or attacking women.  As someone said, you can be pro-men without being anti-women.

I was surprised, excited and inspired by the diversity, vitality, and inventiveness of the organisations represented at the conference.  When someone in a plenary discussion bemoaned the impact of The Cuts, others pointed out that there were many organisations serving men which have started in the past three years, and the reductions in statutory services have stimulated low-budget, bootstrap initiatives to meet the needs.

One of the organisations which impressed me especially is CALM: A small Merseyside charity helping young men at risk of suicide.  CALM stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably.  They produce small cards, which are too cool to mention suicide, with a brightly coloured message and a list of private sector sponsors.  The card says ‘For over 10 years, CALM has been helping lads on Merseyside to get their heads sorted out.’  It gives examples of what might be ‘stressing you out’, and a freephone helpline and website.

The CALM approach is one that Max and I want to learn from for the MB50 Network.  We believe men are more likely to use a service that approaches them with style, cool, and a touch of humour.  So we intend to get serious about lightening up!




WRVS response to Health Secretary’s loneliness mapping announcement – Nov 2012

Nov 26 2012

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt today announced that local authorities will begin to identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness to allow them to tackle the growing problem of social isolation and its harmful effects.

“Loneliness amongst older people has been long overlooked, therefore we are delighted that local authorities will for the first time be mapping loneliness amongst older people in their areas. It’s only after knowing where people are lonely that we can tackle it.
“Loneliness not only has a hugely negative impact on people’s general well-being, but also on their health. WRVS comes into contact with older people day in day out whose main company is the TV, and without our volunteers may not see another person from day to day.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. David McCullough WRVS Chief ExecutiveSimple and cost effective solutions such as befriending, can help tackle loneliness, help older people to stay connected to their communities and prevent unnecessary hospital stays.
“Mapping loneliness is just the start. We would urge local authorities to signpost older people and their families to WRVS and other organisations to help solve the problem of loneliness and also to commission these kind of cost effective services.”

David McCullough, WRVS Chief Executive

75% over 75 lonely and isolated

Aug 31 2012

According to the WRVS, 75% of men over 75 feel lonely and isolated. While the UK and other European countries implement austerity measures brought about by the previous financial and economic crisis of 2008, they are also faced with the challenge of an increasingly ageing population and its repercussions.

Ageing Across Europe, a report published by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) in May 2012 reveals concerning trends amongst men over the age of 75, who are less likely to seek help for isolation and loneliness than women for a number of reasons, perhaps because men feel that they are indomitable and can therefore cope without seeking help.

The fact that this report was published by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service speaks volumes, as does the fact that BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour also felt compelled to deliver a programme on the subject on 16 August 2012 featuring an interview with Matthew Sowemimo, Head of Policy for the WRVS and the story of one man’s experience following the death of his wife.

Whilst the findings highlight the extent to which these men are socially isolated and lonely, 85% of those surveyed said they feel better after seeing friends or family – that’s over 160,000 men. This is where an organisation such as Men Beyond 50 can really look to fill the gap and fulfil the need for altruistic services like this for men.

Here is a snapshot of the report’s findings from 190,000 British men over the age of 75 who live alone:

• 75% have never sought help for feelings of loneliness or isolation, despite 54% admitting to suffering from feelings of depression
• 62% feel lonely because either their partner has passed away or they have lost companions their own age (54%)
• 41% typically have two or fewer face to face conversations per day and 3% per cent have none
• 36% spend more than 12 hours per day without contact with anybody
• 36% cited a loss of confidence
• 26% have given up on their hobbies
• 21% do not leave the house for days at a time
• One in eight worry about their mental health because they have no-one to talk to

Experts agree universally that loneliness is a serious health issue, not least because older people who feel lonely and isolated are far more likely to develop illnesses and require hospital care. In this time of crisis for both the economy in the UK and the NHS, now more than ever is the time to encourage a national debate about how we can all help to make the UK a better place in which to age. It’s time to look at the policies and services of our European neighbours to see which are the most effective in providing older people with a decent quality of life in these challenging times.

As David McCullough, Chief Executive of the WRVS recently commented, “it is good to see that the Government and local authorities have made a commitment in the social care white paper for loneliness to be mapped in each area. This research shows how crucial it is for Health and Wellbeing boards to deliver on the targets for loneliness they have been set. Action is urgently needed on the ground now to make sure older people experiencing loneliness get the help they need.”

Would you like to join the WRVS Befriending Service? They are currently seeking male and female volunteers – given that their research demonstrates 85 per cent of men who are lonely say they have felt better after seeing friends or family, you could really make a difference to somebody’s life. Click here for further information.

Loneliness rife among older men – WRVS 26 July 2012

Aug 22 2012

Many men over 75 suffer from lack of social contact and depression

190,000 British men over 75, who live alone, are lonely according to WRVS research, which identified 36 per cent spend more than 12 hours of the day on their own.

The research found that these men are more likely to be lonely than women, however they are less likely to confide in friends and family about their feelings (11 per cent men, 24 per cent women).

The findings also highlight the extent to which these men are socially isolated with 41 per cent typically having two or less face to face conversations a day and one in 33 (three per cent) having none.

There is widespread agreement amongst experts that loneliness is a serious health issue because it makes it more likely that older people will develop illnesses that reach crisis level and need hospital care.

Worryingly, despite 54 per cent of men who feel lonely admitting to suffering from feelings of depression75 per cent of these men have never sought help for feelings of loneliness. As well as depression, another consequence of loneliness amongst both the older men and women surveyed was loss of confidence, which 36 per cent cited.

The survey revealed a range of reasons why older men feel lonely, but for many (62 per cent) it is because their partner has passed away or as a result of losing companions their own age (54 per cent).

On the release of the research WRVS is calling for more volunteers – male and female – to join our befriending service, after 85 per cent of men who are lonely said they feel better after seeing friends or family.

WRVS CEO David McCullough“These are stark findings. And, given the stigma attached to admitting to being lonely and needing help, this may even be an optimistic snapshot. We know that without our volunteers, visiting people in their homes, many older people wouldn’t see another person or even have a conversation from one week to the next and this can lead to debilitating feelings of extreme loneliness. That’s why we are calling for more people to come forward to volunteer and spend just a couple of hours a week, or whatever they can spare, to make a huge difference to the lives and well-being of older people in the community.”

David McCullough, Chief Executive, WRVS

Today’s research among men and women over 75 who live alone also shows that:

  • 13 per cent of older people don’t get out and about in their communities because they are unable to leave the house due to ill health; and 15 per cent cited having no one to accompany them and that they don’t like to go out alone.
  • As a result of feeling lonely 17 per cent of those surveyed said that they had lost touch with friends and 46 per cent said that they don’t go out as much; 26 per cent reported giving up on their hobbies because of feeling lonely.
  •  21 per cent of those who are lonely agreed that they don’t leave the house for days, nine per cent that they no longer eat properly.
  • One in eight older people who are lonely said they worry about their mental health because they have no-one to talk to.

These findings add to the mounting evidence showing that loneliness is a serious health problem for older people and one that is particularly acute in this country. A WRVS report , published in May 2012, showed that older people in the UK are the loneliest across four comparable European countries.

“It’s time that we all take this problem seriously and understand that the consequence of this kind of extreme loneliness is that older people end up in hospital unnecessarily because loneliness leads to a deterioration in their physical and mental well-being.

“It is good to see that the Government and local authorities have made a commitment in the social care white paper for loneliness to be mapped in each area. This research shows how crucial it is for Health and Wellbeing boards to deliver on the targets for loneliness they have been set. Action is urgently needed on the ground now to make sure older people experiencing loneliness get the help they need.”

David McCullough, Chief Executive, WRVS

For further information

WRVS is one of Britain’s leading age positive volunteering charities with more than 40,000 volunteers working to help make Britain a great place to grow old in.  If you are over the age of 14, we have volunteering opportunities in communities, in hospitals and in emergency situations.

Find out how you could become a WRVS volunteer, call 0845 601 4670 today or search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation to WRVS.