Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Circles: bringing older people together since 2009

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Today’s creative way of bringing people together starts with a circle.  A circle of people who all live in one part of south London.  A circle made up mostly of older citizens looking out for each other.

In 2009, the rather enterprising folk at the design company Participle became worried about the lonely lives that many elderly people were living. They thought it was intolerable that half of all elderly citizens said the TV was their main companion. With one in three of us due to be over 60 by 2030, they thought it was time to start changing things.

And they had a brainwave. Most of us – including the elderly – rely on other people for some help now and again. Advice on a decision, help with DIY, support getting to certain places. For many elderly people this help would come from a succession of different professional strangers – home helps, medical professionals, local handymen. What if instead this help could come from each other or from a regular set of local volunteers. What if these impersonal interactions could be made personal.

And with that thought, the first circle was born. 250 local residents all part of one local network – available to help each other out with different jobs around the house, advice on decisions, help with technology. 250 people each person could get to know. Not a succession of strangers.  

Such a simple idea.  But a highly effective one.  What other great ideas for bringing people together have you come across?

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