Better together

New project aims to tackle social isolation among elderly people, writes Louise Goulden

The Together Project

Ross Wyld resident Kathleen and one-year-old Heath get to know each other at Songs & Smiles

A lot of people in residential care homes have never received a visitor.

The loneliness, isolation and impact on self-worth this can have is devastating.

I’ve launched a not-for-profit called The Together Project to help tackle important social issues such as this. We run joyful, creative activities that unite children and older people.

Our first venture is Songs & Smiles, a weekly singing and social group for babies and toddlers, their grown-ups, and care home residents. We’ve been running a pilot at Ross Wyld Care Home in Forest Road, Walthamstow, since July.

Staff have told us that Songs & Smiles makes the home come alive, while residents say they love the energy that the children bring and parents have found it a very moving experience. I’ve seen people with severe dementia, who are quite uncommunicative in day-to-day life, light up as they do the actions to The Wheels On The Bus.

Music is a fantastic way to bring people together and research has proven the many benefits it can have for all ages. It’s particularly therapeutic for older people and those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, for whom it can enhance memory and improve perceptions about quality of life.

We sing songs that the residents remember from their own childhoods or when they were raising a family, accompanied by shakers, tambourines, drums, xylophones and more. At the beginning of each session, the children (with some help from their grown-ups) select two instruments each, one for themselves and one to give to a resident as they say hello. It’s a great way to ‘break the ice’ and helps form bonds.

We’re now crowdfunding the money we need to extend it across the borough. We want to make this a nationwide project, starting with a wider pilot in Waltham Forest. I’ve quit my job in marketing to make this a reality, which is a little daunting but hugely exciting.

At the risk of sounding clichéd, the birth of my son last year made me think about the type of world I want him to grow up in. And so the vision for The Together Project was born; a way to help make society a bit more understanding, compassionate and integrated.

We need to raise £20,000 to train volunteers, buy equipment, build ongoing relationships with care homes, and reach as many isolated elderly people as possible. We’ve received amazing support from local people so far, from free website design and video editing to hands-on help at the sessions. Now we’re hoping our wonderful community will get behind our crowdfunding appeal and help secure the future of The Together Project in Waltham Forest and beyond.

For more information and to donate to The Together Project: