How Accomplish Group Helps Combat Loneliness

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and its theme is loneliness. Loneliness is of course something which can affect anyone at any time. But the pandemic and periods of lockdown greatly increased the risk of people feeling lonely, with a detrimental effect on their mental health and well-being.

Lift Someone Out Of Loneliness Campaign

For the people we support at Accomplish and the staff team who support them, it was a complex time. It was vital to keep everyone safe, but so important that people did not feel increasingly isolated while restrictions were in place.

It was tough; the people we support couldn’t visit their families, or have their families visit them. They couldn’t go out to do all the things they enjoy in their busy lives. People within homes might have to isolate or homes go into individual lockdown to protect everyone. Staff were not immune; as well as supporting people at work, they faced the same challenges and restrictions as everyone else when they returned home.

Even in homes where several people live together, the risk of loneliness does not go away; just being with people on a daily basis doesn’t mean you can’t feel lonely or isolated, we discovered. It’s about being with the people you want to be with, when you want to – that’s the key. And seeing the same people day in, day out for weeks on end could also exacerbate that feeling of loneliness.

At Accomplish our vision is to make every day amazing and, it’s fair to say, everyone went above and beyond to make that happen while restrictions were in place. The range of amazing activities and fun events which went on every day was truly staggering. But of course, they were by their very nature, very ‘home’ based as they had to be.

We asked ourselves: what can we do to bring people together in a safe and fun way, a place where they can enjoy meeting new people, speak to friends and do things they enjoy doing – all without leaving the home? And so the Accomplish Social Club was born.

Held several days a week over Zoom, the Social Club is an Accomplish phenomenon. Its sessions include “Carol’s Crafting Corner” (where Carol, a person we support, leads sessions on how to create wonderful pieces of craft), Book Club, quizzes, discos, BSL lessons and the ever-popular Coffee Morning. The Coffee Mornings cover a different topic of conversation every week and everyone gets stuck in sharing their views – they don’t hold back. From the Government’s lockdown parties to President Donald Trump – there’s always plenty to talk about.

This week, to mark Mental Health Week, we joined the Coffee Morning crew to ask if the Social Club had made a difference to their experience of lockdown; had being able to meet up with new friends helped them feel less lonely?

First up is Casey. She loves the Social Club and really enjoys Carol’s crafting sessions in particular. She’s a regular at the Coffee Morning.

She said: “I was lonely during COVID and it was difficult for me to cope. I was upset that I couldn’t see my Mum except online. The Social Club helped me. I like the discos and coffee mornings – we should have more of them!”

Brenda is also a fan of the Social Club. During lockdown she too struggled with not being able to see her family and really missed her sister-in-law who regularly visits and the two enjoy days out together.

She said: “It was difficult during COVID. I didn’t like wearing facemasks. It could make me more lonely because I couldn’t see whether people were smiling or not. I usually go to a day centre and I missed that and the people I see there. I was tearing my hair out, I thought I would go mad.

“The Social Club really helped. I could talk to other people, I could talk to Anna and Chris who organise it. That helped.”

Christine and Amanda, who live together, agree that the Social Club really helps, even now that lockdown and restrictions are over. Because people living in residential homes still have to isolate when they test positive for COVID, the opportunities for loneliness can creep back in. They both agree that having the Social Club as a way of keeping in touch and enjoying activities has been a real lifeline.

Anny said that while the Social Club isn’t quite the same as going to Costa for hot chocolate (something she really enjoys too) it has helped her “feel less lonely and less sad”.

She’s enjoyed the Book Club and enjoyed listening to Matilda and really likes the Coffee Mornings.

Peter makes the most of all of the activities and sessions the Social Club offers, with Quiz Night being a particular favourite.

He said: “During lockdown I felt cut off. I am very close to my brothers and I couldn’t see them. I felt like I was unwanted. I couldn’t go to Age UK like I usually do. Coming to the Social Club helps me feel less lonely, I see lots of different people and I really enjoy it.”

Activities Co-Ordinator Chris Ansell is one of the organisers of the Social Club. He says:

“The Social Club is a great way to bring people together who might not meet each other under normal circumstances and people can dip in and out of the things they like. We have some people who only join us for quizzes, and we have others who only join the Coffee Morning.

“Everything’s very light-hearted and we’ve held everything from fundraising events for Red Nose Day to Pamper Days via the Social Club. Everyone’s very knowledgeable and getting together like this has been a great way to speak to different people and get to know them.

“Now the restrictions have been lifted, we hope to get people together in person and the friendships that have grown through the Social Club can continue to thrive in ‘real life’.”

We leave the group chuckling at one of Casey’s “bad jokes” and discussing “Partygate” and making arrangements for next week’s get together. Casey requests karaoke…. Watch this space!

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