New Earswick Less Loneliness Initiative

Kay visits the New Earswick Less Loneliness Initiative to find out more about this group in York that was ahead of the curve in tackling loneliness

Retired Care Pro Kay visited the New Earswick Less Loneliness Initiative (NELLI) which is based at the New Earswick Folk Hall. This is just one of a series of blogs that Kay has produced to highlight the events and activities for older people in York. Being able to live independently at home is not just about care, but about combatting loneliness and connecting with local people in the community.

Back in 2020 the covid lockdowns revealed ‘an epidemic of loneliness’ in the UK. Loneliness, as well as harming mental health, is also known to be a factor in heart disease, stroke and dementia. During the pandemic we saw heartwarming news reports about community groups who reached out to lonely people in their area with offers of food deliveries, regular phone calls, socially distanced doorstep chats and whatever else was possible within covid guidelines.

NELLI – New Earswick Less Loneliness Initiative – were well ahead of the game. They were set up in 2013 following a research project by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The project was called ‘Neighbourhood Approaches to Loneliness’ and it aimed to find out how volunteers in communities could reach out to lonely people of all ages and help them to find connections with their neighbours.

I was excited to find out more about NELLI, so I arrived at New Earswick Folk Hall cafe a little early. The Folk Hall has plenty of free parking and the café is on the ground floor. A receptionist is available at the door to welcome you and direct you to the right place. A long table at the back of the café is reserved for NELLI members.

Beth, one of the volunteers who runs the group, was expected to be a little late as she was escorting one member from her home. Diane, one of the regulars, had also arrived early and was keen to tell me all about her experiences with the group. Diane had initially been encouraged to come along to NELLI by a very outgoing friend. She said that she hardly said a word at first because she was so quiet and shy. After a few weeks she began to ‘come out of her shell’ and now she chats to everyone. She told me that, as well as having meetings over tea and coffee in the café, NELLI also have trips out, parties and meals at local restaurants.

Another member, John, arrived and told me how NELLI had propelled his life in a new direction after retirement. Along with Kit and Beth who run the group, John was one of the original researchers for the Neighbourhood Approaches to Loneliness project and he is well aware of the importance of staying socially active in retirement. Many of the regulars, like John, come to the group and to other activities at the Folk Hall in order to maintain a feeling of being socially connected and purposeful.

Tackling loneliness in York

The table allocated to NELLI started to fill up with people, all pleased to see each other and eager to chat. People bought each other coffees from the cafe.  There was a lot of laughter and warmth in the group. People shared information and gave advice. John, it turned out, was a whizz on the internet and provided several people with contacts they needed. One member was attending a mindfulness course at the Folk Hall and encouraged others to try it as she was enjoying it so much. These were neighbours who genuinely cared about each other.

Beth arrived and told me more about her involvement with the organisation. She is passionate about supporting people at risk from physical and mental ill-health due to loneliness. She and her colleague, Kit, are keen to offer new activities to suit different people and will try to accommodate anyone who wants to join NELLI. They also work with other agencies and with the other groups running at the Folk Hall to support local residents to access interesting, healthy and fun activities. There really is a lot going on at the Folk Hall: Pilates, gardening groups, craft groups, walking, keep fit and various activities for people with disabilities. There is also a library with internet access and the usual library services. It’s worth taking a look!

If you have an older HomeInstead client or family member in New Earswick, don’t hesitate to take them to the café  to meet NELLI.   If the idea of walking into a room full of new people is overwhelming one of the volunteers will meet them outside. They will get a very warm welcome and like John, Diane and others I talked to this morning, and it may well be the start of a new social life.

NELLI meet every Wednesday morning, 10.00 – 12.00.

For more details about activities at New Earswick Folk Hall you can download the leaflet here.

To learn more about the benefits of continuing to live in your own home read our guide to the benefits of care at home.

Loneliness Initiative New Earswick York