Published: Friday, 22nd May 2020

Medway Council is working with Age UK Medway and Nucleus Arts to support older residents feel less lonely and socially isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

The partnership will identify 400 vulnerable older residents who have the highest risk of becoming isolated. They will be sent weekly activity packs which include a 20-page booklet filled with games, quizzes and puzzles as well as interactive projects to help occupy their time.

They will also receive phone calls once a week, or more if needed, from a trained support worker. The calls will help combat social isolation and enable residents to discuss any concerns they have or difficulties they are facing so they can receive further support.

The council, Age UK Medway and Nucleus Arts also understand the importance of arts and cultural activities and the positive impact this can have on people’s wellbeing so they have teamed up with local artists who will create poetry, songs and artwork for the packs.

The project is being launched this week (Monday, 18 May to Sunday, 24 May) to mark Creativity and Wellbeing Week to highlight how important the arts are to people’s wellbeing. This week is also Mental Health Awareness Week and Medway Council is reminding residents of the support services available during COVID-19 including the Release the Pressure helpline and text service. Residents can text the word “Medway” to 85258, to start a conversation with one of the many trained and experienced volunteers. People needing support can also call 0800 107 0160 where support is available from trained and experienced staff on this freephone number 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Medway has a vibrant and innovative creative community which will contribute to Medway’s bid for City of Culture 2025.

Reaching residents who are at the highest risk of social isolation

Cllr David Brake, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder covering Public Health, said: “The activity packs will reach residents who are at the highest risk of becoming socially isolated and I am pleased that we are working with partners to ensure they feel connected to their local communities. The partnership will also provide volunteering opportunities for residents who may have been furloughed but would like to do something to help their local community. It is also incredibly important that we all look after our mental wellbeing during these unusual times and I would encourage residents to visit www.medway.gov.uk/coronavirusmentalhealth to find out more about the support available. I would also like to thank all of the volunteers and organisations who have continued to support residents during these unusual times, including those who have been involved in our emergency support project.”

Medway's creative community continues to play a vital role

Cllr Howard Doe, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “During this unprecedented time Medway’s creative community continue to play a vital role in supporting the wellbeing of our residents. This brilliant partnership with Nucleus Arts and Age UK Medway will give our most vulnerable residents access to creative activities and is a fantastic example of Medway’s cultural and creative ambitions that will also see the development of a new cultural strategy and Medway’s bid for UK City of Culture.”

We can make a real positive change in people's lives

John Norley, the CEO of Age UK Medway, said: “Age UK Medway is thrilled to be part of such an innovative partnership at this time of crisis for everyone, but particularly older people in our communities who were already combating loneliness and isolation. Helping older people stay mentally and physically active is crucial at this time, and creating ways to establish social contacts which promote good mental and physical health is really important. Working with Nucleus arts, we can bring together their expertise and ours to make a real positive change in people’s lives, despite being isolated.”

We hope they will brighten residents' spirits

David Stokes, CEO of Nucleus Arts, said: "We're really pleased to be working with Medway Council and Age UK Medway on this important project. The creative arts has a huge positive impact on our mental health and I am pleased that artwork, poems and other creative mediums from local artists will be included in the activity packs. We hope they will brighten residents spirits and help them feel less isolated and demonstrate the important role of Medway's creatives at this time of crisis." 

Medway Council has also pledged its support to the Kent Community Foundation to further help Medway voluntary and community organisations support residents throughout the pandemic.

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