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4 ways ExtraCare are building community in retirement

Since 2019, ExtraCare’s Engaged Lives project has been helping older people find greater community. Here are four things we’ve done to provide opportunities for our residents to find meaning, connection, and that crucial feeling of belonging in retirement.

1. Peer-support community groups

The centerpiece of our project is our peer support groups. These bring residents together to explore new ways to build community and connection. Over six weeks, groups discuss themes like Keeping Mobile, Building Resilience, and Giving Back. Everyone has the chance to explore their personal barriers to community, before learning strategies to help them move beyond these.

Each week, the group explores a new topic through interactive exercises and discussion, where attendees share ideas, support, and encouragement with each other, to experience a sense of growing closeness and progression together.

“The group is great for people who want tools to help them sustain relationships and interests into older age. It’s nice to hear more about people and understand where they’re coming from. You don’t always get a group with so many differences coming together like that and able to talk openly about their feelings and their challenges.” – Rachel Stephens, Bournville Resident and workshop attendee

2. Befriending Teams

We are revamping our befriending offering at ExtraCare through our “Friendly Faces” initiative. This brings befrienders together to create “Community Teams”, where volunteers work together to devise their own community-building ideas and offer more empowering support to residents, building their independence.

We want befriending to be genuinely empowering – a way to help people get back on their feet and sustain community for themselves. Our teams do this by organising events and working 1-to-1 with people needing support, introducing them to new groups and environments, and building people’s confidence to engage community themselves.

“Loneliness is a killer and Friendly Faces is the medicine. It’s worked wonders here and it should be a core part of what we do.” – Abtar Sanga, Volunteer Organiser, Earlsdon Park Village

3. Life-Stage Courses

We’ve partnered up with Life-Stage – a Brighton based social enterprise – to offer personal-development courses to our residents. These courses explore the ageing process and the changing opportunities for purpose and direction the people can discover in their journey through older age.

Life-Stage courses encourage individuals to take ownership of their ageing journey, and construct a “life intention”, so they can fully realise older age’s potential, whilst also addressing its challenges withing the solidarity of a community. Life-Stage wants to create “wisdom circles” across the UK, where mature people can come together to become visionaries for their community, pooling their experience and understanding to steer their communities in the right direction.

We have ran Life-Stage courses in Earlsdon Park Village, Coventry and are now launching more in Bournville Village, Birmingham.


“The Life-Stage Team”

4. Steps to Connection

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we created Steps to Connection – a “DIY guidebook” for mature people seeking community, inspired by the materials from our peer-support groups. The book gives a route map to greater community for people aged 55+, outlining ten steps that people can take on their own.

With interactive exercises and prompts for reflection, Steps to Connection is personal, psychological, and practical. It explores themes from our peer-support groups along with specialised topics, like: finding community as a caregiver; socialising from home; and making the most of technology.

Find our more here (including organisations wishing to provide the book to their service-users).

“Our members really enjoyed it. They felt that the exercises would also be nice for people to do with children or young adults in an intergenerational way.” – Justine Shenton, Coordinator of Sefton Older People’s Forum.


End of project event: 7th June at Longbridge Retirement Village

If you would like to know more about the Engaged Lives project and learn things that can help your organisation, join us for our free end of project event on June 7th, 2022. Hear what we have found most effective and discover how to empower the communities you work with. We will also be giving out community building resources we have developed, to help you pursue your own vision of community.

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, this event will highlight the work undertaken throughout the project, and share resources.

• 10:30am Introduction to Engaged Lives
• 11:00am Workshop development
• 11:20am Questions
• 11:30:am Steps to connection
• 12:00noon Questions
• 12:10pm Friendly faces Volunteers and future
• 12:30pm Questions
• 12:40pm Lunch and networking