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Horticulture to tackle social isolation in Cardiff

Gofal - one of Wales’ leading mental health charities - has secured Big Lottery funding to run the innovative new ‘GreengAge’ project, which aims to use horticulture to reduce social isolation and improve older people’s general and mental wellbeing. GreengAge is currently looking for volunteers who are aged 50+ with an interest in horticulture, as well as older people who would benefit from this type of befriending scheme

Social isolation is a concern for many older people, as physical health begins to restrict their involvement in social and recreational activities, sometimes leading to a deterioration in their mental health and wellbeing. The 2006 UK Government report ‘A Sure Start to Later Life: ending inequalities for older people’argued that social isolation affects about one million older people, and has ‘a severe impact on people’s quality of life in older age.’ It is estimated that 51% of all people aged 75+ live alone, and research has shown that approximately 20% of the older population feel mildly lonely and another 8-10% feel intensely lonely.

The Campaign to End Loneliness has previously warned that rates of depression rise with age, identifying a need for informal and formal attempts to tackle loneliness and isolation, such as befriending schemes. It has also called for voluntary and community organisations to involve older people as contributors as well as recipients, highlighting that 35% of the people they surveyed said that they would like to do more to help otherstackle loneliness.

In light of this information, Gofal has secured funding for an exciting new initiative, which combines Gofal’s mental health expertise with horticulture, in order to improve wellbeing and reduce social isolation amongst older people in Cardiff. The new GreengAge project will provide volunteering opportunities for older people to work with other older people, in order to help them participate in activities such as growing fruit, vegetables or plants in their own homes and gardens. This one-to-one befriending service will also encourage older people to increase their exercise, self-confidence, and social contact.

The GreengAge project is working with a number of organisations to identify older people who would benefit from this type of befriending scheme. If you would like to participate in this project, or know of someone who would find it beneficial, please do not hesitate to get in touch. The project is also ready to recruit volunteers in the Cardiff area, who would like to help others to engage in gardening activities. If you are aged 50+ with an interest in horticulture and befriending, this may be the perfect way for you to make a difference and give something back to your community.

For more information, or to get involved with the project, please contact the GreengAge project coordinator Gwyneth Thomas on 029 2044 0197 or gwyneththomas@gofal.org.uk or visit www.gofal.org.uk/greengage