£460,000 pledged to Norfolk charities to help isolated elderly residents

Age UK North Norfolk befriending manager Elva Gledhill with volunteer Rosemary Whitwood (left) and Eileen Short, whom she visits at home once a month through the charity's befriending service. Picture: Karen Bethell Age UK North Norfolk befriending manager Elva Gledhill with volunteer Rosemary Whitwood (left) and Eileen Short, whom she visits at home once a month through the charity's befriending service. Picture: Karen Bethell

Tuesday, October 22, 2013
8:15 AM

An outreach scheme that supports isolated and vulnerable older people in north Norfolk has been given a six-figure boost to continue its work.

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Age UK North Norfolk has run its popular befriending service for seven years, supporting lonely elderly residents through volunteer home visits and regular social groups.

And the service, which has gone from strength to strength since it was founded, has now received a £175,000 grant from the Big Lottery’s Reaching Communities programme to further expand its work.

The charity is one of a string of groups across the region to benefit from a share of a £724,440 pot of funding, to help combat elderly people’s loneliness this winter.

In north Norfolk, which has the highest number of over 55s in the area, the cash will go towards training more Age UK befriending volunteers.

As well as training, volunteers will also be given ongoing mentoring and guidance and go on courses covering mental health issues, dementia and safeguarding adults.

Elva Gledhill, befriending manager at Age UK North Norfolk, said: “The costs of social care and healthcare are rising and managing budgets is increasingly a challenge.

“These challenges need to be faced now so we make sure future generations of older people have the support they need.

“The problem of older people being lonely and isolated is an ongoing issue. Older people do not want to be a burden to anyone, therefore the problems they face goes unnoticed. This escalates the issue with no one really knowing the true figure of loneliness across the county.

“But from the amount of referrals we receive, which is only the tip of the iceberg, show how widespread loneliness is among older people.”

“Losing a loved one and suddenly finding yourself alone with no one to turn to can also affect our mental and physical health,” Ms Gledhill added.

“Social support schemes such as Age UK North Norfolk befriending service are proven to reduce the sense of isolation amongst older people and allow early intervention, as well as directly improving health and wellbeing.”

Another group to receive Big Lottery funding is the Norfolk Deaf Association, which has also been awarded a six-figure sum, to improve the quality of life for those who wear hearing aids.

The charity has received £284,991 towards its project to provide people with hearing aids assistance with cleaning and maintenance of the devices to enhance their performance.

It particularly aims to work with older people living with hearing loss, to improve their ability to communicate and reduce their isolation, resulting in improved confidence and self esteem.

The scheme will run 28 mobile clinics across Norfolk and 52 static clinics at GP surgeries, care homes and community centres.

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