The St Monica Trust’s community development funding aims to help older people safely re-engage with their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Eight months into the pandemic, local lockdowns are in place and the UK is braced for the expected second wave of coronavirus.
With no end in sight, thousands of older people in Bristol and beyond are continuing to live with the day-to-day impact of the pandemic, which extends far beyond the immediate threat to their health.
The national lockdown has left many older people feeling isolated and unable to engage with their local communities.
When everything stopped it was shattering. I felt as if I’d been stripped bare of everything that made me ‘me’.
Kathleen (77) is a retired Maternity Auxiliary Nurse and lives in Southmead with her husband.
Before the pandemic, Kathleen was very active in her local community, belonging to a number of project committees and running the Southmead Creative Writers Group, which she founded in 2018.
Kathleen said: “The friendships formed within the writers’ group were very precious: people sharing knowledge, sharing experiences, giving each other comfort and the sense of belonging that came with it.
"When everything stopped it was shattering. I felt as if I’d been stripped bare of everything that made me ‘me’.
“Isolation bought people’s frailties to the fore and you could see how being cut-off from the outside world made people physically ill.
"One gentleman was such a bright spark and a really good artist. He was reduced to lying on a sofa with a blanket over himself not moving.”
St Monica Trust’s Community Impact Team is hoping to change this. The Bristol-based charity has recently released funding to help older people, like Kathleen and her friends, to safely re-engage with their communities during the pandemic.
The community development targeted funding aims to tackle the long-term implications of coronavirus for older people, such as access to digital technology, the loss of local groups and activities, plus the impact of increased isolation on health and well-being.
The St Monica Trust’s Director of Community Impact, Adam Rees, said: “While the coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of life, its consequences have significantly impacted older people in the region and there are many barriers for them to overcome in order to re-engage with their communities.
“We are providing funding for community development projects that will support community activities to restart and to work with older people and help them re-engage in their communities again.
"The project will provide light touch support across the region with the aim of encouraging collaboration and linking older people into existing services.”
The Bristol-based charity is providing £480,000 in funding for organisations across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with The Grateful Society contributing a further £90,000 to fund the inner City and East Bristol.
In total, the funding will provide six organisations with £95,000 over three years to run community development projects in their local area.
The President of The Grateful Society, Dr Jacqueline Cornish, said: “We are delighted to partner with the St Monica Trust for this innovative community development project - truly an example of giving funding directly where it is needed to support communities with vulnerable older people.
“There has been a frightening loss of resilience in this population and hence the attendant risks of declining mental and physical health, making eventual rehabilitation more of a challenge.
"This Project will bring older people back into society, giving them the confidence to not only successful re-integrate, but crucially be valued contributors to their community”
Since the lockdown ended, Kathleen has restarted the writers group. It has been reduced to just six members to comply with government guidelines, but with coronavirus cases rising in the region, it faces an uncertain future.
Kathleen said: “It’s about rebuilding the lives we had with different values and starting over again."
"That’s going to be difficult to achieve, but very necessary if we are going to have any quality to our lives. It’s like being a battery that’s been rundown and we need help to recharge.”
Founded in 1920, the St Monica Trust has always supported individuals outside of its retirement communities, helping to tackle issues that affect the lives of older people in Bristol and the surrounding area.
Adam said: “The St Monica Trust has always been committed to improving the lives of all older people across the region and Community Impact works with organisations, community groups and individuals to achieve this.
“In recent years we have provided funds to organisations who deliver vital services for older people. Funding has ranged from community development and physical activity projects, to benefits and debt advice services.”
For more information on how the St Monica Trust is supporting local communities, go to www.stmonicatrust.org.uk/suppo... or email Communityimpact@stmonicatrust.org.uk.