Research has shown that loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is associated with depression, high blood pressure and dementia, according to Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s communities committee.
Since Norfolk County Council launched its In Good Company campaign to tackle loneliness in the county, the library service has more than doubled the number of events it runs which are suitable for people who may be experiencing loneliness or social isolation.
And from June 21-23 more than 20 council libraries will be hosting In Good Company events and activities as part of the national Great Get Together project.
It’s an approach which earlier this year drew the praise of Arts Council England which highlighted the way it was helping to build community cohesion and promote positive ways that people can connect with their neighbours – recognised nationally as the most important way of tackling loneliness and social isolation.
Jan Holden, head of libraries and information, said: “From afternoon teas, knit and natter and board games to colour me calm sessions and book groups, our regular programme of events encourages people to enjoy the company of others whilst taking part in a fun activity or simply chatting over a cuppa.
“For the Great Get Together weekend, we’ve incorporated some extra events into our programme, including Open Gardens at Blofield, Making Music Day at Aylsham, and a sing along and invitation to write a letter to an isolated person at Hunstanton. We hope lots of people will come along and join – it’s a great way to connect with people and make new friends.”
The first Great Get Together took place last year. It was the idea of the friends and family of murdered MP, Jo Cox, to mark the first anniversary of her death. The event aims to bring friends, neighbours and communities together to celebrate everything they have in common.
Councillor Dewsbury added: “Loneliness is a major national issue and we know that it affects people of all ages.
“We are leading the way with our In Good Company campaign and recently announced £2.4m funding to tackle loneliness in the county. Over the next three years we’ll be working with partner organisations to develop new and innovative ways of improving the health and wellbeing of people affected by loneliness and social isolation in our communities.
“It’s great to see our libraries taking part in the Great Get Together again this year and offering such a varied range of events and activities to help to ensure that no one needs to spend a lonely day in Norfolk if they don’t want to.”
For more information about how you can get involved with In Good Company, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/ingoodcompany
For events and activities in Norfolk County Council’s libraries visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/libraries
For more information about the Great Get Together visit www.greatgettogether.org