Libraries help beat loneliness

Norfolk’s pioneering library project to tackle loneliness has been recognised in a national report by Arts Council England. The Library and Information Service’s Libraries Loneliness project was among five national schemes singled out for praise in the report, which looked at the contribution organisations make to combat isolation in our communities.
One in five people aged over 65 in Norfolk is believed to be lonely, and local libraries and mobile libraries are part of Norfolk County Council’s In Good Company campaign, which aims to promote positive ways in which people can connect with others.
Since the libraries started their part of the project last November, they have almost doubled the number of activities for older people, from 57 to 113.
This ranges from creating a welcoming atmosphere where staff listen and talk to visitors and weekly tea and coffee sessions to a timetable of regular activities.
These include: Just a Cuppa, which provides companionship and allows staff to identify signs of loneliness and offer support; Knit and Natter and Crochet and Chat sessions; and games of Scrabble. Some libraries also hold Colour Me Calm activities, colouring sessions where participants can talk as little or as much as they like in a relaxed atmosphere. Jan Holden, Head of Norfolk Library and Information Service, said: “It is really fantastic that the great work our libraries do to support communities has been recognised by Arts Council England. It gives other libraries across the UK a good example of a great project. Our libraries are places where vulnerable people will always be welcome and our staff are brilliant at ensuring our service responds to their needs.”
Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “It is great that our loneliness project is leading the way nationally and helping to ensure that people in our Norfolk communities feel less isolated.”
Research by the Local Government Association shows being lonely can increase your risk of premature death by 30pc. It also suggests that being lonely is more harmful to your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

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