Fighting loneliness with Ami

Joanne Stead

Facts on loneliness

Technology and social media mean we may now be more connected than ever. At the same time, many of us are feeling a greater sense of loneliness than ever before. 

Loneliness is bad for your health.  It can be worse for you than obesity and is likely to increase your risk of death by 29%. Lonely people are also more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression.

In Oxfordshire alone, according to Age UK Oxon, approximately 11,000 people regularly feel lonely. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, over 9 million people in the UK are either often or always lonely. Of that number, 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely and the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach 2 million by 2025-6.

Solution

Ami was created by OCC in July 2016 as a not-for-profit project within OCC. Ami matches volunteers with those who seek companionship or help with small neighbourly tasks such as shopping and getting to appointments. The project has recruited over 200 volunteers, each offering about 8.5 hours per month on average. Volunteers provide help and companionship to lonely and isolated people, including the housebound, those who have lost a partner and stroke victims.

Ami volunteers often provide additional benefits such as temporary respite for carers. What’s more, volunteering can be very beneficial to the volunteers themselves, providing opportunities to make new friends and find fulfilment in helping others.

Simone's experience with Ami

The future

Ami has found considerable success in Oxfordshire. But its work is not done. Ami is a partner in Hertfordshire’s Reach Out project, which supports those who have been recently discharged from hospital and require companionship and general assistance.

Ami hopes to expand into Surrey later this year and, ultimately, to become a national organisation, helping to provide comfort, care and companionship to lonely people across the United Kingdom.