Building connections and tackling loneliness in the coronavirus pandemic

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In this blog our Community Champion, Maria Butler explains how she is developing innovative ways to continue building connections and supporting those who are at risk of experiencing loneliness in her local community.

In my role as a Community Champion leading our Never Alone initiative across Buckinghamshire, I work with people at particular risk of loneliness, both in care homes and the wider community, running events and exchange schemes to forge friendships and connections. Like so many others our work changed overnight following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) but we remain committed to supporting those who are more vulnerable to loneliness across the communities in which we serve. This may become more important than ever as we all get used to a very different way of life, with terms like ‘self-isolation’ and ‘lockdown’ now part of our national vocabulary.

Once the pandemic hit the UK we cancelled all face to face groups and care home visits. Now we’re a couple of weeks into this new way of life and we have had time to assess how we can continue to support people at risk of loneliness. For example, we have transferred our regular Bingo visits in Buckinghamshire care homes to video links so we can still see each other and maintain contact with residents who thrive on variety and fresh faces, which has proven to be a great success.

Maria Butler Skype Bingo

Here is Maria hosting a game of virtual Bingo with some residents from a local care home in Buckinghamshire.

My team of volunteers and I have also been considering how to use our experiences of supporting those who are susceptible to feeling lonely across the community in which we serve and translating these ideas into inspiration for others.

So, if you’re wondering how to support friends or relatives now at home alone, or how to stay connected yourself in these unprecedented circumstances, please read on and follow our Facebook page, @CPJFieldCofor further tips.

This will be the first in a series of blogs. To start with, over the coming weeks, we will be sharing blogs around:

1. Staying in touch with nature

    Make the most of Spring whatever your living circumstances and health status. We’ll have tips on gardening on windowsills and balconies, birdwatching and propagating houseplants plus where to get seeds and essential supplies. We’ll also explore possibilities for creating a nature haven if you’re lucky enough to have a garden.

    2. Staying creative

      Inspiration and instructions on accessible craft activities such as crochet, embroidery and pom pom making as well as tips on crafts which can be done without any specific supplies such as potato printing, flower pressing, card making and collages and plenty of edible creativity with baking ideas.

      3. Staying active

        Advice on safe and energising home workouts, whatever your physical mobility including armchair workouts and resources such as yoga classes via video link.

        4. Staying in touch

          Instructions for how to use free technology to stay in touch with family, such as video calls and instant message services as well as inspiration on ways of connecting such as virtual crossword groups and video-based coffee mornings.

          We’re all starting to realise getting through this unprecedented time is going to take a good deal of fortitude and adaptation, but human beings have those qualities in abundance. One of the amazing things to come out of the pandemic so far has been the uprising of community spirit. We have heard so many stories of people helping their neighbours, often those they haven’t connected with before, healing family divisions and realising what life is like for those less fortunate than ourselves. The bonds built now can last far longer than this virus, so let’s work together and let this be the time we use our own actions to keep each other connected as well as safe.

          We’d love to hear your questions, experiences and ideas around supporting those who are more susceptible to loneliness, so please get in touch via our Facebook page or by emailing info@cpjfield.co.uk.