Living Well in Ilfracombe
The Living Well Team agreed to start tackling social isolation – an issue that evidence shows has a significant negative impact on health and mortality. As well as requiring a multi-agency approach, the whole community can play a part in providing the solution and it fits with One Ilfracombe’s focus on prevention and reducing demand on high cost acute interventions. Initally, it is the elderly that will be focussed on so first the team asked older people themselves about the issue and how it could best be addressed. Over 100 elderly residents took part either in engagement sessions or by completing ‘Happiness’ surveys and from that some of the following projects were conceived:
It was clear that those experiencing memory loss and early stage dementia, together with their carers were especially at risk of becoming isolated in their homes due to nervousness about going out. This can be alleviated by the town being a more welcoming and understanding place for people experiencing such difficulties. Work began to make Ilfracombe a Dementia-Friendly Town as recognised by the Alzheimers Society.
The first step is to raise awareness about the disease in the community and so three volunteers from One Ilfracombe qualified to explain how dementia affects people’s physical and mental health as well as how the symptoms can be recognised and treated. To date 118 people have attended awareness-raising sessions including carers, councillors, businesses and service providers. Leaflets explaining what support is available locally and stickers for dementia-friendly businesses have been created.
Young volunteers are now offering their time and skills to assist older people to use the internet. Based at the library, older people are learning how to email and use facebook to keep in touch with family and friends. The young trainers are benefiting from hearing the experiences of the older ones and the satisfaction of helping others whilst increasing their own confidence in interacting with all ages. The elderly students are getting in touch with family members and friends using email and other tools. One 90 year old student said, “People can’t believe it when they seem me popping up on Facebook!”
Social Prescribing & Community Connector
A clear message from discussions with older people was that they had lots of ideas about what would assist them and weren’t aware that many of these very things were already available in Ilfracombe. So a social prescribing project has been created and funding secured to test out whether a person whose job it is to connect people up to the services and activities avaliable would be more beneficial than just adding more activities. It will link up the befriending and other voluntary services available, such as ‘Feel Better with a Book’ and ‘Singing for the Brain’ and the Ilfracombe Community Transport Association (as lack of transport was highlighted as an issue). We’re also asking community groups if they could assign a group ‘Friend’ who could take a new member under their wing, acknowledging that joining new groups and activities can be daunting.
The Ilfracombe Village
Similar to the Neighbourhood Watch movement that sees neighbours looking out for the security of one another, this approach encourages old-fashioned neighbourliness and encourages the ‘village’ spirit, where people check their neighbours have milk and heating when they come out of hospital or pick up their medication or notice and act if they haven’t seen them leave the house in a few days. Local volunteer co-ordinators will be a central point of contact and we’re testing to see if this approach, which has worked in some villages in Devon, could also work in a town.
One Ilfracombe recognises that some of the determinants of health are outside of the NHS and other health services with socio-economic factors accounting for about 40% of people’s health outcomes and the physical environment accounting for a further 10%.
Therefore the Living Well team joins up with two other main teams that work under One Ilfracombe: the Ilfracombe Works team, which aims to improve the economy of Ilfracombe and individual residents; and the Town Team which aims to take a multi-agency approach to improving the environment.