We can’t make elderly isolation disappear with £10milion ‘magic’ grant, says Greater Manchester charity

A £10million lottery grant to help encourage the elderly to socialise more will be ‘no magic bullet’, according to a Greater Manchester charity.

The Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) is to receive the grant for its Ambition for Ageing project, which will look to tackle the widespread issue.

The funding comes as part of a nationwide scheme from the Big Lottery Fund, which is investing a total of £82million across 15 areas in England.

John Hannen, Policy and Research Manager at GMCVO, said the money will not solve the issue, but is ‘basically a £10million research project’.

“This will be no ‘magic bullet’ to fix social isolation, but will come in the form of low-level activity to fix the issue,” Mr Hannen said.

“We hope that small-scale social activities such as dinner clubs will create new communities within the elderly demographic to act as a form of inoculation against social isolation.

“An ageing population is not a burden, it is an opportunity, and we’re hoping that Ambition for Ageing will serve as a defibrillator to shock these communities back to life.”

Greater Manchester’s sum of £10,222,679 is the highest amount being awarded to any of the regions – a figure which Mr Hannen says is fully justified.

“£10million sounds like a lot of money but it is actually a fairly small amount when you take into account that we will be working with eight local authorities,” he said.

“The money is not there to fix the problem at this stage, but to find out how to fix it. This is basically a £10million research project.

“This is just the start of the process. We are forming a business plan over the next few months ahead of the project starting on April 1 2015.”

Mr Hannen said the funding will focus on addressing areas with higher numbers of single elderly residents, and we estimate it will have over 50,000 beneficiaries.

He said: “We will take a test-and-learn approach, tracking the progress of the project over time to see what effects it is having on reducing elderly social isolation.”

Mr Hannen stressed the importance of the project by highlighting that the population of Greater Manchester struggled to maintain a healthy life expectancy beyond middle-age.

“A key issue is what is considered as ‘old’, which is a broad spectrum depending on circumstances,” he said.

“The healthy Manchester life expectancy is around 53, which is much lower than many other areas of the country, it often reaches into the 60s and 70s.

“Obviously many live beyond their early 50s, but not necessarily to a healthy standard.”

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