Brighter Days Summary Report

The Brighter Days project was funded as part of Brightlife’s ‘Bright Ideas’ strand. This fund encouraged local groups, voluntary organisations and businesses to come forward with ideas to reduce isolation and loneliness for older people within areas or communities of interest.

Brighter Days was delivered by Muir Group Housing Association, provider of a diverse range of housing and related services for people across Cheshire West and Chester. An initial award of £5596 was made to fund the project for one year, with a further £10,184 subsequently awarded to extend the project for another year.

Key Learning

  • Interventions designed around meal-sharing can be particularly effective for recruiting and engaging older people who live alone.
  • For projects based in residential care homes, expanding recruitment to include participants from the local community can help residents to feel more connected.
  • Encouraging engagement with formal evaluation can help delivery partners to better understand the needs and goals of participants.
  • It may not be sufficient to rely on formal referral pathways to recruit participants.

 

Development and delivery

The Brighter Days project involved a series of events hosted at Tweedsmuir retirement village in Vicars Cross, on ‘special’ dates throughout the year. Residents and older members of the local community were invited to take part in activities to celebrate these special occasions whilst enjoying some friendly company.

A Scheme Officer was employed to deliver the project, co-producing each event alongside a steering group of older people.

Participants were recruited from within the retirement village and via referrals from local healthcare professionals, community organisations and specialist service providers. The number of referrals received from within the local community was lower than had originally been anticipated. Despite efforts to build a referral network, most of the participants from the community came directly into the scheme after hearing about it through word of mouth.

Like many other Brightlife delivery partners, the Brighter Days project team reported challenges with the administration of the CMF evaluation questionnaire. New participants, particularly those who were most socially isolated, were often resistant to engaging with the evaluation: they “just want to socialise and enjoy having an opportunity to connect with others.”

However, it was acknowledged that there were benefits to investing time in this process by helping new participants complete the CMF questionnaire: “[it] gives a much clearer picture of what they want to gain from the project, what their interests and how best to engage with them.”

The project team embraced the ‘test and learn’ principles of the Brightlife program, successfully using their extension funding to build on what they had learned during the first year in order to expand delivery to a number of other care homes in Year 2.

 

Impact and legacy

The integration to the project of older people living in the local area enabled residents at the care home to build new friendships and to feel part of the wider community.

Participants particularly enjoyed activities which involved sharing a meal – many said they mostly ate alone and rarely cooked meals for themselves.

Delivery of the Brighter Days project has enabled Muir Group Housing Association to expand its third sector partnership network, opening up a range of opportunities for future collaboration. It has also raised the profile of Muir Group Housing Association within the local community, resulting in a number of new business enquiries for the organisation.

Delivery of the Brighter Days project will continue at Tweedsmuir beyond the end of the Brightlife Funding period (with future costs covered and/or raised by Muir Group Housing Association), and the model will be developed across other housing association retirement villages in the region.