Four week campaign aims to tackle loneliness in Greater Manchester
For aged persons, being away from friends or loved ones is a major problem. One barrier is the lack of awareness of social activities, which may keep their minds active. This could be alleviated by using ‘dead tree’ analogue media as well as the internet. Another barrier lies in their ability to use public transport: whether boarding the vehicle or trying to find a bus which stops nearby.
Stagecoach Manchester aim to nip this in the bud. They have been working with local charities and community centres to connect members of the community as part of its Bringing People Together campaign.
The bus operator launched a four-week campaign which included a series of indoor events to support retirees living in Greater Manchester. These include helping them to attend community get-togethers and meeting friends by using the city’s transport links.
The idea of touting the grey pound is nothing new in Greater Mancunian bus operating circles. In 1983, for persons aged 50 upwards, Greater Manchester Transport launched The Travel Companions’ Club. As well as keeping elderly passengers informed on GMT’s offers, there was also exclusive day trips to Blackpool, Southport and the like. Before Facebook came about, passengers would make friends on the excursions.
Fast forwarding to 2019, loneliness and social isolation remain prominent issues. Not just in Greater Manchester but throughout the UK. In fact, research from Age UK shows that nearly 1.9 million older people feel ignored or invisible.
To combat this, Stagecoach Manchester have worked with four local community centres to host a range of engaging events. From indoor curling to exercise classes, each session gave attendees the chance to enjoy an activity that they may not usually take part in, and have a cup of tea and a chat with some new friends.
Speaking about the campaign, Elisabeth Tasker, managing director for Stagecoach Manchester, said: “As one of the region’s biggest transport providers, we have a huge role to play in bringing people together and connecting them with the services they want and need.
“It is clear community centres are the linchpins of the local areas they serve in many cases, and in the last four weeks, we’ve seen first-hand just how important events to get people out of the house are.
“Whether you know someone who could benefit from getting out and about, or you yourself could do with a cuppa and someone to talk to – there are community groups and regular events across the region that can help.”
In the last decade, central and local government spending cuts have thrown the proverbial tool in the works. Community centres and libraries have closed. Across the UK, socially necessary bus services have been cut.
Speaking about the events, Bob Dolan, commented: “If you stay in the house all day, you end up looking at the same four walls and they don’t keep you company. Stagecoach has helped me get out and about, meet new people and try new things – it’s been great fun.”
Rachel Hughes, of Barlow Moor Community Association which puts on regular sessions for retirees, commented: “It’s extremely important for the health of retirees to keep active. Through campaigns such as this, older people can build on existing relationships and meet new people, which helps us to tackle loneliness and isolation across Manchester.
“We, like many other community groups across the region, have a calendar of events which genuinely mean there is something for everyone.”
Stagecoach is supporting a bus industry pledge to tackle loneliness after figures from Greener Journeys, the campaign for more sustainable transport, showed that three in 10 people go at least one day a week without speaking to anyone close to them.
One in three people deliberately catch the bus to have some human contact. The crucial role that buses play in facilitating social interactions and alleviating loneliness is supported by previous research for Greener Journeys, which shows that two-thirds of people believe that buses improve community ties.
An EM60 Presentation, 12 April 2019.
Photographic image courtesy of Tangerine PR Limited, 2019.