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.
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.
Enrych Oxfordshire, a charity which provides volunteers to support people with physical disabilities, has recruited over 40 volunteers through Ami. Theresa Wright, Enrych Coordinator said, “We are so grateful to OCC, Ami has been amazing, the volunteers we have recruited through it are supporting our members in so many different ways. They enable members to take up old hobbies or have a go at new ones.
“They play board games, read to people, enable them to cook or garden, take them out and about to the theatre, garden centres and museums. The list is endless. They support those who have suffered from Strokes, MS, Parkinson’s and brain injuries, to name but a few, as well as severe visual or hearing impairments, giving them something to look forward to and helping them feel part of society again. It is amazing the difference an hour or two a week of someone’s time can make. There is no doubt that without Ami, we would not have the number of volunteers that we currently do, volunteering across the whole of Oxfordshire.”
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.