‘It’s like somebody’s there’- how free radios are helping to combat loneliness among Chesterfield’s elderly

Pat Bradshaw pictured with Janet Millington.
Pat Bradshaw pictured with Janet Millington.

Free radios have been handed out to elderly residents in Chesterfield as part of an NHS-led awareness drive to help combat loneliness in the county.

Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust is co-ordinating the campaign following a £6,300 donation to the health trust’s charitable funds, raised by Co-op customers in Bolsover and Chesterfield, to tackle loneliness.

Loneliness is now recognised as a significant risk for people’s health and which can affect people of all ages.

Some of the money has been used to fund 100 modern DAB radios to give out to housebound people in north Derbyshire.

These are people who are at risk of loneliness because of the difficulties they have leaving the house due to illness, mobility problems or frailty.

99-year-old Pat Bradshaw, pictured with Janet Millington, received a new radio during a recent meeting of the Elderfriends’ club in Brimington, together with other club members.

Pat has lived all her life in Derbyshire and in the same house in Brimington for 40 years. For many years she worked in the laundry at Chesterfield Royal Infirmary.

But despite these firm local roots and support from her family, she can no longer get out on her own and misses the company.

She said: “I do spend a lot of time by myself and there are days when I don’t talk to anybody.

“I lost my husband seven years ago. I met him when I was 16 and we were married when I was 21, so that’s a very long time and I miss him.”

The radios are being distributed with support from befriending service Elderfriends and staff at The Volunteer Centre for Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire to identify recipients.

Elderfriends has nearly 100 volunteers offering a befriending service to more than 120 isolated people by visiting them in their own homes.

The idea for the radios is based on research looking at how media and technology can change lives for people at risk of social isolation and loneliness.

In the study one recipient said: “What I find with the radio is I sleep better, because even though there’s somebody talking in the background, it’s like somebody’s there.”

During November, Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust is also running a social media and leaflet campaign to raise awareness of the risks of loneliness and to help signpost people to ways in which they can develop stronger community connections. The leaflet can be read online: http://tinyurl.com/y9bswzbe
Mary Heritage, who is leading on the loneliness campaign for Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There are well documented health risks of being lonely, not just for mental health but also physical health.

“For example studies have shown it can be more damaging than obesity and inactivity. So we really want to highlight the seriousness of loneliness. There are things we can all do, but it needs greater awareness.

“The radios are great for people who are housebound. But we also know loneliness affects people of all ages and can have many triggers. By making people more aware of loneliness as a health risk we start to break down the silence and isolation.”