Originally posted on the Sidmouth Herald.
A local charity has sent a plea to residents across the valley to support a new fundraising campaign to establish a befriending or visiting service to combat loneliness.
Sid Valley HELP (SVH) is aiming to offer a befriending or visiting service to those who are housebound or feel isolated and have set a fundraising target of £60,000 during the next three years, to get the scheme up and running.
SVH is working with Independent Age, a national charity that is hoping to extend its provision for home visits to the elderly who are lonely.
There will be a joint volunteer recruitment event at the Unitarian Church on Tuesday, October 23, from 10am until noon, in a bid to rally support as part of the campaign
Di Fuller, chairman of SVH, said: “Loneliness is something that has been in the national press quite a lot over the last couple of years and it is recognised that it is bad for our health.
“Most of us will feel lonely at some time in our life, but for some people, estimated at between five and 15 per cent, they feel lonely often or most of the time.
“Surprisingly this figure is higher for younger people aged 16 to 34 than for those aged 65 years and over, so we shouldn’t assume that this is just something that impacts upon older people.
“It is common among children and young people when they change school or go to college, for many parents of young children and for those of all ages with a disability.
“It is also much higher for those with a limiting long-term illness or disability and studies have shown that eight out of 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one.”
Di added that loneliness, or a lack of social connection, could be just as harmful to people’s
health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
She added: “Many studies have looked at the ways loneliness affects the development of Alzheimer’s disease and coronary heart disease and stroke.
“A national study showed that GPs see several people every day who have visited a GP because they are lonely.”
Di said there was already significant activity under way within the Sid Valley community, through voluntary organisations and by local authorities to combat loneliness – but explained that more was needed.
She added: “There are already some visiting or befriending services run by the churches and others targeted to those who have specific health needs, like Sidmouth Hospiscare and the Admiral Nurse amongst others.
“However, there is large pool of people who do not have those needs and are not part of a church community who we believe would benefit from home visiting or befriending to help them
become more involved in social activity.
“There is no single approach that suits all situations and circumstances.
“Group activities, information sharing and signposting, support for mental health are all needed but we also need community involvement and neighbourliness.”
If you would like to be involved with helping to combat loneliness through fundraising or volunteering as a befriender, or if you are lonely or know someone who is, contact Di on 07786 816890, visit sidvalleyhelp.org.uk or visit the Leigh Brown Room, Unitarian Church on a Tuesday or Thursday morning between 10am and noon. No appointment is necessary and all advice is free.