felicitykendalMillions of Britain’s older population are refusing to let age get in the way of an active social life and new friendships.

Proving that a busy social diary is as much of a tonic as a rest, new research* from Royal Voluntary Service, the national volunteering charity, finds that just over eight in ten (81%) people aged 70 and over have an active social life. Four in ten (42%) socialise at least twice a week and 19% four times a week or more.

Over half (57%) of respondents said they had made new friends since turning 70, just over a quarter (28%) of them through attending a new organised social group. Over half (52%) of senior socialites go to an organised club, group or activity, citing staying in touch with friends (78%), meeting new people (55%), getting out of the house (74%) and keeping their brain active (65%) as key benefits. Almost three fifths (59%) said that attending organised social activities makes them feel positive and 49% said that it helps their mental health.

To provide more opportunities for older people to enjoy the benefits of an active social life, Royal Voluntary Service is calling on community-minded individuals, groups of friends or teams to set up new social groups and activities across Great Britain. This new social network will be supported by funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. These Volunteer Coordinators will receive training, guidance and support on how to set up, run and manage the groups.

"Being social and active are vitally important for everybody’s health and wellbeing, but particularly as we age. Whether it’s going to an art group, an exercise class or breakfast club, we know from our research that having an active social life makes a real difference to older people’s lives, bringing happiness, confidence, new friendships and a sense of connection. We’re looking for energetic people with great ideas, life experience and a desire to make a difference for their community to come forward and help us set up exciting new clubs and classes that enrich local life."

Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service

For older people living alone, opportunities to socialise are especially important. Nearly one in five (19%) over 70s surveyed across Great Britain that lived alone said that they don’t have a social life, with some stating that they spend most of their time at home (12%) and without meeting new people (9%). Four in ten lone dwellers said they would like more opportunities locally to meet people or make new friends.

"I’ve seen first-hand the difference these clubs make to older people’s lives, particularly to those living alone, who may not see other people or socialise regularly. Without social stimulation and the company of others, we lose our sense of connection and often our confidence in the process. Social groups like this one, where local volunteers provide a warm welcome, a friendly atmosphere and lively conversation over a cuppa, have a vital role to play in society. I hope more people will come forward to set up social clubs in their local communities."

Felicity Kendal, Royal Voluntary Service ambassador, who recently spent time meeting volunteers at a volunteer-led social club in Bedfont, Middlesex

"We’re delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting Royal Voluntary Service with this important programme of work which will build connections and help reduce social isolation in communities throughout Great Britain. Loneliness is an epidemic with far-reaching consequences for people's health and mental wellbeing, and we can all help play a part in tackling it."

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery

Kaye Gooch, 72, from Talbot Green in South Wales, was looking for a way to get more involved in her community after retirement. She became a Volunteer Coordinator with Royal Voluntary Service and, with support from funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, set up a weekly tai chi class at a local sheltered housing scheme.

"I like bringing people together and enjoy having more to do in my life. It makes me feel positive because we are keeping healthy and active. The smiles on people’s faces are the best part of running the class, especially as many have poor health and are struggling with various problems. It’s wonderful to be able to run a group that meets their needs and stops them feeling lonely and stuck at home."

Kaye Gooch, 72, Volunteer Coordinator

For club member Beryl Earls, 82, the class isn’t just about keeping fit and active, it’s a social occasion too.

"Before the tai chi class started, my mobility and resilience were poor. Now I’ve joined the class, I really enjoy it. Exercise is essential for my limited mobility and it relaxes my mind. People are now socialising a lot more than they used to and I’ve made new friends. This has given the tenants here a reason to get together and enjoy each other’s company. It’s helping us feel better."

Beryl Earls, 82, club member

Image, left to right: Felicity Kendall meets Royal Voluntary Service volunteer June Hedges.

* The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,005 respondents aged 70+ year old in Great Britain between 11-15th March 2019. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. Figures have been weighted to represent the UK 70+ adult population based on Census records for 2011 that there is 7,361,000 over 70s in the UK (sample excludes Northern Ireland).

For further information

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