Highgate scheme boosts mental health of elderly to 'fend off lockdown blues'

Kitty, 94 - one of the Feeling Good programme's participants on a video call with her Dutch family

Kitty, 94 - one of the Feeling Good programme's participants on a video call with her Dutch family - Credit: Jacksons Lane

Elderly residents have been partnered with younger volunteers as part of a Highgate scheme tackling isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

To reduce feelings of loneliness and anxiety, Jacksons Lane Arts Centre has delivered the Feeling Good programme to develop friendships and understanding for older people – at a time when many of their support networks have been cut off.  

A total of 75 residents, each matched with a trained volunteer, have received regular contact such as a call for a weekly chat or a socially distanced walk. 

Helped with funding by Thrive LDN, a London-wide movement to improve mental health, Jackson's Lane has sought to build “smiles and connections to fend off the lockdown blues”,

One volunteer, Laura, an A&E research nurse, was matched with Melissa, aged 96.

Lisa (left) and Marta (right) - two of the scheme's participants

Lisa (left) and Marta (right) - two of the scheme's participants - Credit: Jacksons Lane

Melissa, the scheme’s oldest participant has since passed away – and Laura paid tribute: “Melissa had an active social life before the pandemic, she went to lunch club four times a week, spent time with her friends in the building, was a keen reader; the pandemic disrupted that for her.  

“I feel privileged to have got the short time I did to get to know her through our weekly phone calls. As a nurse myself I enjoyed talking to her about our nursing careers and listening to her experiences.  

Most Read

“Through Feeling Good I hope we provided her some additional companionship during the last months of her life and the knowledge that someone was there should she have needed the help.” 

The scheme has also helped elderly residents improve their digital skills to help with the shift towards the world of online.  

“Lockdown lunches” have seen participants tune in remotely to creative support sessions, where residents have created poems, songs, stories, soap operas and podcasts.

Joanna (left) and Margaret (right) - two of the project's participants 

Joanna (left) and Margaret (right) - two of the project's participants - Credit: Jacksons Lane

Adrian Berry, Jacksons Lane’s artistic director, said: “As a team, we are most proud of delivering such a one-on-one project, giving each beneficiary and volunteer the time they need in order to develop, grow and learn.  

“Being able to improve older adults’ lives, providing comfort through connection, and encouraging those that can continue beyond the pandemic, to be brave and live a full a life as possible, is an honour.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter