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Lottery £82 million to reduce social isolation of 200,000 older people

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Fulfilling Lives Ageing Better
Release date:
8 9 2014

The Big Lottery Fund is announcing 15 areas in England sharing £82 million to reduce the social isolation of up to 200,000 older people and test new approaches to improve services for the future.

Currently, there are 10.8 million people aged 65 or over in the UK and this is expected to rise to 16 million over the next 20 years. Of those 10.8 million, 3.8 million live alone, and one million say they are always, or often feel, lonely. 17 per cent of older people have less than weekly contact with family, friends and neighbours.*

More people are now at risk of becoming isolated as the population of older people grows, lacking contact with family or friends, community involvement or access to services. The Big Lottery Fund aims to encourage changes and improvements so older people are happier, healthier and more active, contributing even more to their communities.

The consequences of social isolation include poor physical and mental health for individuals, less active citizens and a need for more costly services. The Fund wants to help tackle this and over the six years of the £82 million Ageing Better investment, partnerships in the fifteen areas will test what methods work and what don’t, so that evidence is available to influence services that help reduce isolation for older people in the future.

Partnerships made up of voluntary, statutory and private sector organisations will work with older people in rural, coastal and urban areas to ensure that local services are better planned, coordinated and delivered. Older people will be at the heart of all the projects run by the local partnerships, with a strong voice in the decisions and priorities within their local communities. Activities will include befriending services, training and awareness-raising for frontline staff, creating neighbourhood networks and volunteering.

One of the partnerships being awarded funding is in Bristol, where Oscar-winning Aardman Animations, based in the city, will produce a Creature Comforts-style animation to help change public perceptions of social isolation to benefit 12,000 older people.

In Sheffield 1,000 frontline workers including community pharmacists and supermarket staff are to be trained to recognise isolation. These frontline workers are expected to train at least 10 others so that by 2021 Sheffield will have 10,000 people trained.

Older people in Thanet will campaign for age-friendly businesses, with a local ‘kitemark’ to be awarded to shops which recognise the value and needs of older customers.

One aspect of plans in Middlesbrough is to offer non-traditional social activities for older people including walking football, target shooting and ukulele playing.

Christine Squires, 62, from Gateshead, is a member of the cohort of older people who helped design Ageing Better and sits on the Big Lottery Fund decision making panel. Christine is a wheelchair user with no family.

She said: “When my mother died I had no family left. When I left hospital and came home that was the loneliest night of my life.

“I threw myself into volunteering. I became a teacher trainer and taught IT to visually impaired people. I now run a support group for Dogs for the Disabled. I always worried whether or not I’d be capable and questioned myself but I did have the skills to be a trainer. Everyone has skills that they gain during their lives – it’s just about finding an outlet.

“If I hadn’t looked into volunteering I could have become socially isolated. Many older people go through day after day without anyone saying as much as a hello to them. Ageing Better will be a lifeline to thousands of older people.”

Nat Sloane, Big Lottery Fund England Chair, said: “Just under 4 million older people told Age UK this year that television is their main company. Social isolation is bad for health with links to chronic conditions and increased mortality. With more people living well into their eighties, pressures on local services and budgets will continue to rise.

“There are concerns about a ticking timebomb facing adult social care, but older people have a wealth of experience and skills to offer their communities. We need to tap into this – to help them help themselves and others living alone. Our Ageing Better investment will put them at the heart of the way the projects are designed and delivered to ensure that future generations of older people not only live longer but also live well.”

Baroness Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre-UK, said: “Social isolation is becoming one of the biggest challenges facing policymakers in an ageing society. One in ten over-85s report to have no friends at all. We know our communities can play a significant role in reducing isolation and that there is a need for the voluntary, private and statutory services work together to deliver solutions. These new projects are therefore extremely welcome as is the long term commitment from the Big Lottery Fund. I hope that evaluation of their long term impact will lead to service improvements, innovation and also policy change. Most importantly, these projects will play a major role in tacking isolation at the local level.”

Following the awards, the fifteen partnerships in England will be developing more detailed plans to tackle social isolation amongst older people in their area, with projects starting from summer 2015.

Throughout the Ageing Better investment, evidence will be produced to show the social and economic impact of a range of approaches. Ecorys, working with the Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies at Brunel University and Bryson Purdon Social research, will measure the impact of the funding and share successes and lessons learnt so projects deliver sustainable improvements.


Lead organisation



Birmingham Voluntary Service Council



Age UK Bristol



Age UK Camden


Cheshire West and Chester

Age UK Cheshire


East Lindsey

Community Lincs



Hackney CVS


Isle of Wight

Age UK Isle of Wight



Leeds Older People's Forum


Leicester City




Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation



Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind



Voluntary Norfolk



South Yorkshire Housing Association



Social Enterprise Kent



Torbay Community Development Trust


Big Lottery Fund Press Office:       020 7211 1888

Out of hours media contact:           07867 500572

Website:                                             www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

Twitter:                                              @biglotteryfund #BigLottery

Facebook:                                          www.facebook.com/BigLotteryFund

Notes to editor

  • There are 10.8 million older people aged 65 or over in the UK:Mid-2012 Population Estimates UK Office for National Statistics, 2013
  • The number of people aged 65+ is projected to rise by nearly 50% (48.7%) in the next 20 years to over 16 million: National population projections, 2010-based, Office for National Statistics, 2011
  • 3.8 million 65+ live alone. (This is 36% of all people aged 65+ in GB): General Lifestyle Survey 2011,Table 3.3. ONS, 2013
  • Over 1 million older people say they are always or often feel lonely:TNS survey for Age UK, April 2014
  • 17% of older people have less than weekly contact with family, friends and neighbours.Victor C et al (2003). Loneliness, Social Isolation and Living Alone in Later Life. Economic and Social Research Council. 
  • Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company:Age UK, 2014
  • Three top concerns of older people were; bodily pain, loneliness and memory loss:Philip, I. (2014) ‘Perfect Ageing: The contribution of assessment’, in Services for older people – what works, Davidson et al (Eds), pp. 40-43, London: Age UK
  • The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 it has awarded close to £6bn.
  • In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was awarded to projects. Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £31 billion has been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded.