For the many elderly people in Bristol living alone, apart from family and friends, the months of lockdown are a particularly isolating and lonely time.
With groups and activities halted during the pandemic, organisations in the city are having to come up with new ways to stay connected and provide support to those who need it most.
“Creativity and connections have never been more important for older people,” says Isobel Jones, the CEO of Alive Activities.
The charity, based just along from the Create Centre in south Bristol, is dedicated to bringing activity and engagement to older people. During lockdown, it is running online activity sessions, with singing, poetry sharing, art and more.
The sessions are allowing older people to be creative and also share their stories and memories. After finding out one resident was in the Land Army, the team tracked down a picture of her which she never even knew existed and is now displayed proudly on her wall.
Lerato Dunn, an arts development officer at Bristol City Council, says working with the voluntary sector and creative organisations to address issue of isolation and loneliness in the city is a key part of the department’s strategy.
“It is great to see that organisations are adapting their work to ensure older people both in care homes and in the community are still able to be being creative and have access to their normal support at this time,” says Lerato.
Here are some more highlights of activities taking place across the city to support older people and tackle issues of loneliness and isolation:
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery usually runs Creative Cafes for people living with dementia and their carers and family members. They aim to improve the health and wellbeing of participants through creative activities and by exploring the wealth of objects and paintings at the museum.
While sessions cannot take place, museum staff have sent out handmade individual gifts for residents living with dementia and their carers. The ‘birds’ are origami cranes, they are a symbol of long life, hope and healing and the words included hope to inspire conversation and memories.
“I feel really touched that they have been made for us and you took the trouble to send them out so carefully wrapped in their little envelopes,” says one recipient.
The next activity to be delivered by post will be an armchair dance inspired by the Being Human exhibition.
Acta Community Theatre is working with FareShare and delivering 30 food parcels every Monday to those who would usually attend the weekly creative lunch for isolated older people, Making Time, as well as other vulnerable participants. Craft and creative challenges are included in the parcels for people to do at home and send back, or leave on their doorstep for Acta to pick up.
The Bedminster-based organisation is also keeping in touch with people through safely distanced chats on the doorstep and regular phone calls to make sure group members don’t feel too isolated.
The Bristol Support Hub, run by a collaboration of charities in the city, is providing creative support for older people using the telephone. Tai Chi, local history, reading, poetry, sharing life stories and reminiscence, these teleconference groups ensure older people are accessing their normal creative groups just from picking up a phone.
Main photo part of an intergenerational portrait project – courtesy of Alive Activities