The aim of the Read and Connect project was to reduce loneliness and social isolation amongst over-50s with a long-term disabling condition (and their carers), by enabling participation in accessible book clubs.
Regular club meetings were held at three accessible community venues, with participants encouraged to take part in book discussions and other activities, including lectures from guest speakers, poetry workshops and exhibition visits.
An online presence was established for the project to facilitate participation from those who were unable to physically attend a group, while alternative formats of literature, such as audio books, were purchased to accommodate the needs of participants with physical limitations.
Feedback from participants suggested they valued having a shared book as a ‘safe’ focus for each event. Not having a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way for the book to be interpreted encouraged more active participation in the discussion from all members of the group.
While participation in the group meetings was generally enthusiastic, challenges were encountered in terms of scheduling, as many of the participants with long-term conditions (and their carers) had limited availability to meet at regular times. There was less ‘mixing’ between groups than had been anticipated, and engagement with the club Facebook group was also very low (potentially as a result of some participants’ lack of familiarity with the platform).
The project team also reported difficulties with the administration of the formal evaluation, particularly in terms of engaging participants with the CMF questionnaire.
The success of the Read and Connect project encouraged the delivery partners to successfully apply for further funding from Brightlife, to deliver an extension to the project. This funding was used to establish ‘Reel Connections’, a film club for over-50s with a long-term disabling condition (and their carers).