Loneliness Awareness Week

This week marks the third annual Loneliness Awareness Week. Launched in 2017, the campaign promotes conversations and discussions on the topic of loneliness.

Farnham Maltings exists to encourage people to participate in the community and live happier, healthier, more sociable lives. As part of this, we run an Arts & Health programme designed to utilise the arts as a medium for improving wellbeing and reducing social isolation.

Loneliness can affect anyone. Some of us experience loneliness once every few months, maybe when we haven’t been in contact with close friends for a while. For others loneliness is a daily feeling.

Our foyer is a free-to-use, open space for anyone

Utilising shared community spaces is one of the best ways to tackle loneliness and stimulate social interaction. For this reason several of our Arts & Health sessions run in our foyer. Our foyer is a free-to-use, multi-purpose, open space for anyone. From waiting for your child’s class to finish, reading a book or a space for a catch up with a friend, our foyer is yours to use.

Both Meet Me at the Maltings and Nimble Fingers take place in our foyer.

Meet Me at the Maltings is designed to promote social interaction through the introduction of different crafting techniques and art forms every week. All participants share an interest in crafting, providing a starting point for conversations. The group was set up in response to the recognition of a nationwide loneliness epidemic, and has been very successful in providing a space for social interaction. Of the attendees, 60% joined the group in order to meet new people and make friends, and 80% have gone on to make new friends as a result of the group, with the majority staying after the class to have lunch together.

90% of participants feel the groups are a welcoming place for those who feel lonely.

Nimble Fingers is a weekly knitting and crochet group, where you can bring along your own projects and get advice on techniques and new ideas. The group is free of charge, and its location in the foyer encourages anyone to come and sit with the group. Many people have walked through the foyer, new to the area, seen the group and started a conversation about living in Farnham. Since joining the group 70% of attendees have made new friends, and have recently started to self-organise trips and outings.

Across Nimble Fingers and Meet Me at the Maltings, 90% of participants feel the groups are a welcoming place for those who feel lonely or isolated.

People suffering from dementia are far more likely to suffer from loneliness. A study by the Alzheimer’s Society showed 39% of sufferers expressed feeling lonely. Singing for the Mind, a weekly singing group for those suffering from dementia and their carers, tackles loneliness through face-to-face interaction and regular reinforcement of friendships.

The sessions are led by Barbara Rayner who chooses songs which help participants bond over shared memories of songs from their younger years. Before the singing there is an hour of refreshments where people can chat and socialise. As part of Farnham’s Dementia Action Alliance materials on other social groups for those with dementia are available, ensuring people are made aware that they are not alone with the disease.

Sessions are just as important for carers

Those who suffer from loneliness are 64% more likely to develop dementia. Therefore all the social activities in our programme, plus the multiple events and classes at Farnham Maltings are vital in preventing the increasing number of people suffering from dementia and in improving long-term mental wellbeing. Within our building you will find The University of the Third Age (U3A) which provides classes for older people to learn something new, from Military History to French classes. Loneliness is not tied up with age: our Community Engagement programme brings together socially isolated or marginalised young people to participate in creative projects throughout the year.

Across the Arts & Health programme, carers go free to all groups and sessions. A study amongst carers for people with dementia showed that half of those who support someone for over 20 hours a week experienced loneliness recently. Therefore, sessions are just as important for carers as those with dementia.

Loneliness is something we all experience at times and Farnham Maltings believes in providing spaces and groups to help combat this. It’s not a conversation to be shy about. Just one chat with someone every week can make a world of difference.

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