Hampshire County Council and its telecare partner, Argenti are launching three trial schemes using the latest technology to help tackle social isolation among Hampshire’s older population.
Stockbridge, Netley and Hayling Island will be the testing ground for a new approach to tackling this growing issue, with a project which aims to identify and work with people who are currently most at risk from the impact of social isolation. The three areas have been identified based on population age profile, numbers living alone, and vehicle ownership.
The overall aim of the project is to support people to re-engage with family and friends, with whom they may have lost touch, as well as with their local community or with one of the many communities of interest to be found online. Each pilot will trial different schemes, with one area focussed on a ‘high tech’ solution. This is expected to include offering customised tablets with extra large icons which could link to ‘speak to my family’, and ‘monitor my health’, as well as newsfeeds tailored to activities in the local area.
Launching the trial, which is due to begin in the spring, County Council Leader, Councillor Perry, said “Hampshire’s over 75s population is growing by 1,000 people each year, and while this increased longer life is welcome, many are living in poor health, with growing numbers feeling isolated in their communities.
“We are seeing the significant benefits that technology can bring in the way we run our business and deliver services. This pilot scheme is a further extension of this approach, and will break new ground by exploring the real opportunities technology can bring to help people connect to areas of interest – specific to them, thereby helping them to do what they want to do.”
He added: “I can personally vouch for the huge difference that technology can make in keeping families connected. With my family on the other side of the world, Facetime gives me the opportunity to read my grandchildren bedtime stories, ensuring I remain an active part of their lives, and our superfast broadband programme which has so far connected over 28,000 homes and businesses in Hampshire, will help ensure that even more people living in rural and isolated areas can access superfast broadband services.”
The impact of social isolation on an individual’s health and wellbeing has been shown to be significant, with a demonstrable effect on mortality. In Hampshire, 20 per cent of the over 65 population are estimated to be ‘mildly lonely’ (48,674 people), with 8-10 per cent estimated to be ‘intensely lonely’ (19,470-24,337 people). While there are a number of population groups that are vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness, (e.g. young care-leavers, refugees and those with mental health problems), it is widely-recognised that older people (as individuals, as well as carers) often living in rural areas, have specific vulnerabilities owing to loss of friends and family, loss of mobility or loss of income.
Those taking part in the pilot will be identified through the health and social care system, as well as via other public service areas such as Hampshire Constabulary and the Fire and Rescue Service. The pilot will be evaluated over a year and is expected to involve around 30 residents in each trial. Health and social care professionals will be involved as well as volunteers such as the County Council supported Village Agents.