Prevention: Promoting wellbeing

This film focuses on services designed to improve or maintain older people's wellbeing. The services featured in this film are specifically aimed at reducing loneliness in later life and include a luncheon club and separate tea dance club, both based in Dorset. These types of services are sometimes referred to as ‘primary prevention’ and are aimed at people who have few or no social care needs or symptoms of illness. Therefore the focus is on maintaining independence and good health and promoting wellbeing. ‘Primary prevention’ can involve the provision of universal access to good quality information, promotion of health and active lifestyles, delivery of practical services and the provision of social groups, such as the ones featured in this film.

The film begins by introducing two people, Brian and Gwen who describe the enormous impact that recent bereavement has had on their lives. Brian says, “[when my wife died] I felt absolutely devastated and I got so that I didn’t much care if I was crossing a busy main road whether I got to the other side or not”. Gwen also says that she felt her own life was over when her husband died.

The film describes how they were both subsequently encouraged to join social groups, with Brian attending twice monthly tea dances and Gwen joining a local luncheon club. Brian and Gwen are clear about the beneficial effects of the groups they joined, including feeling healthier, fitter, no longer feeling lonely and, for one of them, even finding love again! Both groups are funded by Dorset County Council and Dorset NHS Trust’s ‘Partnership for Older People’s Projects’ (POPP).

Early analysis of research on these and other similar projects that POPP is involved with in Dorset suggests that this approach is providing potential cost savings.

Messages for practice

  1. It is not unusual for older people who have lost spouses and friends to feel lonely, isolated and depressed.
  2. Relatively inexpensive services such as luncheon clubs and dance classes provide an opportunity for people to meet others, make new friends and establish local networks.
  3. These services can improve people’s wellbeing and because they are generally relatively low cost there is some indication from research that they are cost effective.
  4. Many areas have developed projects which are organised and funded jointly by the NHS and local government. Dorset is one such example of joint working to help local older people live securely and confidently in their own communities for as long as possible.
  5. Examples of other services designed to improve wellbeing include;
    1. practical help with things like gardening, shopping and minor repairs – often delivered via the voluntary sector, for example some local Age UK organisations provide a “helping hands” service.
    2. healthy living advice and support – including diet advice, risky lifestyle awareness raising and exercise classes.
    3. befriending schemes – intended to promote social isolation and promote wellbeing and group meetings and socials like the ones featured in this film.

Who will find this useful?