08 Oct 2019

A new scheme in Dorset is bringing the young and old together to support each other and tackle loneliness. According to the Office of National Statistics in 2018, 14% of 10-12 year old's often felt lonely and Age UK report there are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people within the UK. School children in Dorset are now helping 'at risk' older adults to lead healthy lives. A new project by children's charity the Youth Sport Trust is pairing young people up with older adults to take part in exercise together.

It's part of a scheme called 'Active Across Ages' where 22 young people from Bincombe Valley Primary School and Wey Valley Academy go to the Acorns Day Centre once a week for musical warm ups, walks and games.

Ali Goodall, Development Manager of the Youth Sport Trust, said:

"Active across Ages is trying to tackle some of the biggest issues of a generation like inactivity and loneliness, and the initial results are hugely promising.

"The project sees school aged 'activity buddies' and older people based in care homes, or who might be isolated in their community, paired up to design and enjoy physical activity initiatives together.

"Evidence suggests that physical activity supports better mental wellbeing and so it is vital we continue to innovate new way s to support the hardest to reach."

In fact, it's been so effective, it's even being prescribed by Littlemoor GP surgery for older adults at risk of loneliness.

The project's also aimed at changing how the young and old perceive each other.

Ali added:

"We've seen that attitudes and perceptions towards other generations have been improved and young people are telling us through the project they have a better understanding of older people's needs and have developed how they see themselves and others within society."

Rob Belbin, inclusion lead for Dorset, said:

"The older people always look forward to the younger people coming in, which is just brilliant.

"Every time we leave, the centre staff will say that this is brilliant, and it is the best thing they've done in a long time.

"I love the way that I have seen the children completely change as far as their understanding goes about society - which has been the greatest benefit."