Girlguides launch badge to tackle loneliness in old people

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Girlguides in Manchester have launched a UK first with a new badge to tackle loneliness in old people.

Youngsters have been visiting homes for the elderly and sheltered housing centres to speak to senior citizens to earn the new badge.

It is hoped the initiative will be adopted by other guides across the country.

Nancy Cox, six, from 1st Northenden (St Wilfrid's) Rainbows, with 82-year-old Jean Feltham
Nancy Cox, six, from 1st Northenden (St Wilfrid's) Rainbows, with 82-year-old Jean Feltham (Mark Waugh/MHCC/PA)

The pilot badge started just before Christmas, with events including Brownies and Rainbows from Northenden in the city putting on a play at a sheltered housing court in aouth Manchester and arranging an indoor camp fire with story-telling and craft sessions.

Former Brownie Veronica Armstrong, 67, from Northenden, a grandmother of 16, said: "Me and my age group have the time to spend with children and we can give them a different view on life. We also have skills we can show them like sewing, learning to knit and doing gardening.

"Plus, a lot of my friends miss their families because they don't live near their own children or grand kids - and they would really like to have that ongoing involvement with children's projects."

Frankie Fernandez, eight, from 2nd Northenden (St Wilfrid's) Brownies, with Veronica Armstrong, 67, around a camp fire
Frankie Fernandez, eight, from 2nd Northenden (St Wilfrid's) Brownies, with Veronica Armstrong around a camp fire (Mark Waugh/MHCC/PA)

After the trial run, the badge is being rolled out across Manchester this week for all 5,000 Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and members of The Senior Section.

It is part of a new push by health and council officials to improve wellbeing for youngsters as part of reciprocal projects with older people to break down age barriers and tackle loneliness.

It was the idea of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning (MHCC) - the new commissioning partnership agreement between Manchester City Council and Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group, working initially with two Brownies units in Wythenshawe and Gorton and Girlguiding Manchester's Guiding Development Adviser.

Ian Williamson, chief accountable officer at Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, said: "We know that loneliness can be devastating in both its physical and psychological effects, especially for older people.

Manchester Health and Care Commissioning chief accountable officer Ian Williamson with the new badge  launched by Girlguides in Manchester to tackle loneliness in old people
Manchester Health and Care Commissioning chief accountable officer Ian Williamson with the new badge (MHCC/PA)

"There's so much evidence to show how it contributes to lowering the immune system and making people more prone to illness, as well as a major impact on wellbeing.

"If youngsters know this, they can lead by example and raise awareness of an issue that we can all help to solve."

Helen Salvini, assistant county commissioner at Girlguiding Manchester, said: "Community action is a key part of the guiding programme for all age groups and we were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Manchester Health and Care Commissioning to develop this badge."