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Michael Roberts shares his new role within ExtraCare’s Engaged Lives Project

ExtraCare’s Social Engagement Supporter, Dr Michael Roberts, shares his new role within the charity’s recently launched Engaged Lives Project.


The experience of loneliness among older people has received growing attention in recent years. We now know that loneliness is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and carries similar or greater health risks to alcoholism and obesity (find out more here). In spite of this, Age UK reports that over 1 million older people feel lonely ‘always or often’, while nearly half of over-65s state that television or pets are their primary forms of company (find out more here).

At ExtraCare, we do much better than the average. Our emphasis upon community, collaboration and volunteering ensures that 87% of residents living in our retirement communities are ‘never or hardly ever’ lonely (find out more here). Yet, we are always looking to go the extra mile, and we have recently secured £98k from The National Lottery Community Fund to further improve the experience of our residents, through our new Engaged Lives project.

As part of this project, I have been appointed ExtraCare’s “Social Engagement Supporter”, and I will be working to further alleviate experiences of loneliness and isolation in our communities.

Within this role, from February 2020, I will be delivering a series of peer-support workshops in our villages, where residents will have the opportunity to support one another to overcome the obstacles that older age presents to staying socially-engaged. These sessions will also be open to community referral, reflecting ExtraCare’s commitment to strong interaction and integration with local communities.

Over six weekly sessions, those who attend the workshops will have time to explore their interests and values surrounding community engagement. There will also be a chance for participants to reconnect with what they find personally meaningful (rather than what others tell them they should be doing) and some time to reflect upon the strengths and skills they can contribute to their communities, building that sense of purposeful activity, important in counteracting loneliness.

At ExtraCare, we want our residents to feel empowered to pursue the lives they want, and our workshops will introduce a variety of resources to help support this. This includes things like: relaxation exercises, mindfulness practice, goal-setting, emotional-coping skills, resilience and confidence-building techniques, and more positive mindsets about later-life. Here, the Engaged Lives project takes inspiration from similar confidence and resilience projects for older people running across the country, along with the “Positive Ageing” movement (find out more here).

I’m excited to get these workshops off the ground, so we can do more to help ExtraCare residents feel the sense of community and belonging that we deserve at all stages of life. Workshops will begin in Earlsdon Park Village, Hagley Road Village and New Oscott Village. Please get in touch if you would like any further information, or to express interest in attending.