The Together Project – spreading joy and reducing social isolation through intergenerational activities

Louise Goulden is Founder & CEO of The Together Project, a charity that spreads joy through intergenerational activities, aiming to alleviate social isolation for the betterment of people of all ages, encouraging community togetherness.

What does your charity do?
The Together Project spreads joy through intergenerational activities. Regardless of your life stage, social isolation is one of society’s biggest challenges, so our programmes aim to reduce loneliness and foster community togetherness. The idea is simple; we organise activities that unite people who might not normally come into regular contact, with a focus on fun and friendship.

Our programmes range from intergenerational music groups in cares homes to a pen pal scheme that forges connections through arts and crafts. We’re based in Waltham Forest but have a national footprint, reaching over 3,000 beneficiaries per year.

What are the challenges your service users face, and how does your organisation help users overcome them?
Older adults living in care settings represent a significant number of our service users. Often they face multiple layers of disadvantage – disability, dementia, lack of access to community facilities and events, limited opportunities to socialise outside of their care setting and so forth. This can lead to loneliness and poor mental health; a study showed that older adults living in care homes experienced rates of severe loneliness at more than twice the level of their peers living in their own home.

Another significant beneficiary group we work with is new parents, who are often also impacted by social isolation. A 2019 study showed 56% of people with children under five regularly feel lonely, which can be a contributing factor to mental health challenges such as post-natal depression.

Our organisation addresses this through enriching, meaningful activities that connects different parts of our communities, making everyone feel included, valued and valuable. Our work brings people together as equals, celebrating both difference and commonality and creating moments of joy that give everyone something to look forward to in their week.

ELBA have played an important role in capacity-building, through our involvement in several of their workshops and training sessions. We were also lucky enough to participate in the ELBA Board Match event in 2023, through which we recruited two fantastic new trustees that have contributed a great deal to the effectiveness of our organisation.

Do you have an inspirational story/moment about your work that you would like to share?

A testimonial from the granddaughter of one of our service users, Arthur, beautifully illustrates the impact of our work:

“Arthur was 91 years old when Songs & Smiles [our intergenerational music group] started, he was very reluctant to join as he was the only male participant. After the first few sessions he came away with a smile on his face and talked about how the children had brought that sparkle back into his life.

Week upon week he would get up every Thursday with the excitement of seeing the children, in his own words “I love my Thursdays with the children, it’s the only day of the week I look forward to, seeing the smiles from the babies and how they love the bubbles”.

Arthur was very eager to get involved during the sessions and the little girl in the picture showed everyone how she had learnt to put her own coat on, but she was struggling with her shoes, so Arthur got onto the floor and helped her put her little trainers on.

When Arthur’s health began to deteriorate, he still managed to attend most sessions interacting with all the children. Unfortunately, Arthur sadly passed away at the beginning of April 2023 aged 93. Even then, he managed to say “I’m going to miss the children on Thursdays, tell them I’m sorry.”

Arthur loved each and every one of those children that attended, As Arthur’s granddaughter it brought that sense of happiness and put a smile on my face, just to see how happy he was during the sessions. It brought a huge amount of joy to his life and he would always have a smile on his face whilst talking about it.”

What kind of support are you in need of right now and how might volunteering fit into that?
We have wonderful opportunities for group volunteering to help with our intergenerational penpal scheme, Crafting Connections. Volunteers will help with both facilitating the programme through helping organise packs and materials to be sent to participants, as well as directly reducing loneliness by running a crafting workshop in a partner care home.

We also have a range of exciting sponsored challenges that people can sign up to, whether you fancy running the London Landmarks or trekking through the Sumatra jungle!

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