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Improving Connections Fund

The St Monica Trust is pleased to launch the Improving Connections Fund for projects that support older people to live their best lives.

Supporting social interaction and tackling isolation have long been acknowledged as key components to ageing well, and for many years the St Monica Trust has funded projects that support greater connections. As the St Monica Trust embarks on its new 10-year strategy we will be focusing on three themes of ‘Connection’, ‘Contribution’ and ‘Choice’. Our initial focus is Connection, and through this fund, we want to specifically address this persistent barrier to enabling people to live well as they age.

The Improving Connections Fund was met with huge interest, and we are pleased to announce that we have awarded over £200,000 to ten charities across our region: Alive Activities, Bristol Dementia Action Alliance, Carers Support Centre Bristol and South Gloucestershire, Coniston Community Association, The Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE), Square Food Foundation, St George’s Bristol, Talk Club, Vision North Somerset, and Wellspring Settlement.

Grants awarded

1. Alive Activities: Share and Repair Café

The Share and Repair Café is a community-based, intergenerational knowledge exchange project. The funding will support the development of a series of pilot ‘share and repair’ events in community settings across Bristol, themed around skills and industry.


2. Bristol Dementia Action Alliance: Creating Dementia Aware Communities

Following a successful pilot in Shirehampton, this funding will allow BDAA to expand this grassroots initiative to new areas by bringing together key stakeholders to create a dementia aware community in Avonmouth.


3. Carers Support Centre Bristol and South Gloucestershire: Carers Befriending and Community Connection

Older carers in rural areas of South Gloucestershire will be supported through this pilot initiative. Life for older carers is lonely and they are often housebound with limited interaction with peers or those who can empathise with their situation. This project aims to reduce isolation and loneliness for older carers and improve connections for older carers with information exchange and sustained peer support.


4. Coniston Community Association: Improving connections for older people in Patchway

Coniston Community Centre prides itself on being a vibrant, inclusive and friendly meeting place in the heart of Patchway, providing a warm welcome to its community. The idea for this project came as a result of conversations with community members and the funding will help to re-connect older people, especially those feeling less able to leave their homes post-pandemic, with their community.


5. The Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE): Chat, Make & Move

RICE has been working with the older population for 35 years. Many people experience isolation and confusion after a dementia diagnosis and RICE’s mission is to alleviate distress through offering a range of interventions to both those diagnosed and those who care for someone with dementia. The Chat, Make and Move pilot sessions funded through this grant will bring people in the locality together at an early stage of memory loss in order to tackle isolation and loss of social confidence.


6. Square Food Foundation: Back in the Kitchen

Back in the Kitchen (BITK) is a weekly drop-in cookery programme for older people who are at risk of loneliness and isolation. This funding will enable the expansion of BITK and will introduce monthly batch cooking sessions to make healthy “ready meals” for the wider community of older people, empowering the students with an activity that positively contributes to their community.


7. St George’s Bristol: Community Ticket Club

Since the pandemic, there has been a decline in older people attending cultural activity and the social connections this offers. This grant will support the expansion of the pilot project Community Ticket Club where older people from across Bristol come together for social activities and to connect with their peers and others at live music events followed by a gathering in the café. Club members go on to host their own social events onsite.


8. Talk Club: Talk Club for Older People

With a preventative focus on mental fitness, Talk Club helps reduce loneliness and improve connections through peer-to-peer listening support groups. This grant will support the establishment of five new groups for older people in North Somerset with the aim to increase connections, reduce loneliness and improve both physical and mental fitness.


9. Vision North Somerset: Seeing Friends

Visually impaired people are at particularly high risk of isolation and loneliness and the associated threat to well-being. The Seeing Friends project provides opportunities for social connection, physical activity, and wider community integration and this grant will support the expansion of this project.


10. Wellspring Settlement: Connecting Elders through the Arts

The grant will scale up the successful pilot of coproduced participatory arts workshops with older people. The project found that their local older people were looking for playful, creative ways to connect, and to do activities which do not conform to stereotypical expectations of ‘older people’. Funding will enable the creation of multiple opportunities for older people to meet others and express themselves, foster social connections, know where to go for support and information and feel confident to get involved.

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