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Sikh Elders Service pulls together to address social isolation and loneliness

Leeds Written by Sikh Elders Service

Sikh Elders Service aims to improve the health and well-being of older Sikh people by supporting them to live independently and to live fulfilling lives. We do this by offering a combination of one to one support and group activities. The ageing population is one of the defining changes of our time and it’s a global reality. Families live further apart, distances and time pressures can make it difficult to travel. We at Sikh Elders Service will provide new opportunities to connect people of different ages. We know through our peer support discussions that the elders are alone and miss their families. Sikh Elders Service (SES Touchstone) held their first workshop on 29th November to explore how to address Social Isolation and Loneliness in the Sikh Community.

Although Sikhs are known to have extended families and have a vibrant community life, there is an issue that is not talked about within the community, namely isolation and loneliness. The event in November was well attended and we received a lot of positive feedback. Rob Webster spoke about why it is important to look out for your neighbours and how loneliness is a major public health concern. If not addressed, it can seriously affect people’s health and well-being. The event had four further speakers from various networking partners, with each talk summarised in Punjabi for our Sikh Elders. There were stretching and movement exercises, hugs and handshakes in between the talks too. SES shared views and personal stories from the service users. SES highlighted that there are lot of hidden loneliness cases in Leeds and that we are looking for befrienders to engage in a social chat or activity with the Sikh Elders once a week for one or two hours.

There are also lots of Sikh carers in the community that need a break and find it difficult to ask for help and take time out for themselves. We had fantastic engagement from the Sikh Elders in the group discussion and we will share our findings with Rob Webster’s team. Some of the perceptions from the discussions about loneliness were: trust issues, lack of confidentiality and if I speak out I feel shame. One of the groups said that activities such as Sikh Elders Service create that safe environment and space that allows us to discuss issues discreetly in a comfortable manner. New applications for the befriending and volunteer have been received and we have been able to match one of them to a service user that has severe complex needs and Parkinson’s disease.

The carer is exhausted and he wanted someone who could use the equipment at home and speak Punjabi. A nurse contacted us after the event. She has experience of manual handling, using special equipment and works part-time. She will now spend a couple of hours every Monday with the service user and the carer can access the Monday SES group for a break and connect with his community. A fantastic outcome from connecting with our neighbours and community and making a difference.

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