Ageing Better Camden finds ways to engage with older men
Informal social hubs and pop-up activities in neutral spaces are the best ways to connect with older men put off by traditional community outreach
Jo Stapleton, Ageing Better in Camden, Good Practice Mentor, Outreach Specialist (Age UK Camden).
How do you reach older men who are reluctant to engage, those who ‘nobody knows’?
To find out, the Outreach Service at Age UK Camden commissioned a social action research report, as part of the Ageing Better in Camden programme funded by Lottery Community Fund. The report shines a light on the research undertaken across Camden with 36 older men engaged on the streets, in pubs and living in sheltered housing.
The project was created in response to a need to proactively find and engage with the older people ‘nobody knows’ through the outreach service. These were individuals less likely to be in contact with or to access formal services and support. The service approached and engaged with substantive numbers of older men through outreach activity. Many of the men were happy to engage and expressed a desire for social connection but were often reluctant to access or consider joining formal community groups or activities. This research enabled the Outreach Service to gain valuable insight about what successful social connection looks like for isolated older men.
Insights gained from the research included:
- A preference to meet in ‘neutral’ spaces – pubs, cafés, parks, or libraries. Community Centres were often perceived as ‘not for me’ spaces.
- Men were put off if an activity was advertised too formally “I wouldn’t go to something called a men’s club or group”.
- A preference for informal ‘as and when’ drop-in type activities.
- Many older men prefer to connect socially via informal social hubs. Examples included meeting companions in the pub, via book sharing in sheltered housing or chatting with peers in the changing rooms after a swim.
For many reluctant to engage older men, a funnel-and-focus toward formal activities may not be the answer. In response, the Outreach Service went on to explore and develop informal social hubs and pop-up activities in neutral spaces to provide an alternative route to engaging older men and foster social connections.
The ‘Connecting men to their communities’ report and how we subsequently applied this learning to foster social connection between older men can be found here.
For more information or to access free outreach training to find and engage the older people ‘no-one knows’, please contact: [email protected]
Jo Stapleton is the Good Practice Mentor at Ageing Better in Camden and an Outreach Specialist at Age UK Camden.
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