London Freemasons Help older men fight loneliness and isolation

W Bro John Little SLGR finds out more

The Open Age’s Men’s Space Project is aimed at men over 50 across the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Westminster. Through engagement, support, and integration, it provides a ‘space’, a range of activities to help them build confidence, dispel fears, remove any barriers and discover or rediscover their skills through positive conversations and motivational engagement.

Open Age is celebrating over 25 years of championing an active life for older people and enabling anyone over 50 to sustain their physical and mental fitness, maintain an active lifestyle and develop new and stimulating interests. Over 350 weekly activities help them strengthen their sense of community, rediscover old hobbies, find new ones and make new friends. From health and fitness classes such as dance, yoga, chair exercise and walking groups – even walking football – through to creative and performing arts, computer classes, and visits to London attractions, they help combat loneliness and isolation and improve their health and wellbeing.

The charity’s New Futures 50+ Employment Programme helps those over 50 to find employment.

Men can join any of the 60 sites, including the New Horizons Centre in Chelsea, the Second Half Centre in North Kensington, the Avenues Centre in North Westminster and the St Margaret’s Hub in South Westminster, as well as community centres, sheltered housing, church halls and libraries in these areas.

Those who are housebound can join facilitated telephone groups. The ‘Time For Me’ initiative provides activities and trips for unpaid carers. Link-Up staff help isolated people to break down the barriers that are preventing them from leaving their homes.

‘Many members experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, often having declined engagement with similar organizations. Some are unpaid carers who find it difficult to socialize. Older men often find it more difficult to engage with organizations like Open Age, making it much harder to reach and support them. Often, they may experience loneliness after the death of a spouse, while others are struggling to adjust to retirement or have health conditions that make socializing difficult.

‘We’re very grateful to London Freemasons for their generous grant, which will allow us to continue to reach out to lonely and isolated older men across West London, giving them opportunities for social interaction, fun and friendship. The benefits of this activity are measurable and clear and can have a massive impact on mental and physical wellbeing as well as general quality of life.’

A £60,000 grant from London Masons will help deliver activities such as IT classes, walking groups, gardening and cookery sessions to at least 150 older men.

Member feedback

D R, aged 64, lives alone with mild cognitive impairment secondary to alcohol abuse:Since I became a member of the men’s group at Open Age, I have been able to cope with my situation much better; I am now connected to other support organizations, where I also get a cooked meal once a day and get the chance to meet other people, and I don’t feel so lonely.’

C H aged 61 who had a history of depression: ‘I have been feeling awful, very depressed, and lost, left behind and fearful of the future. I did not know how to fill my time or contribute to life.’

After completing an Android Smartphone 6-week course and several remote classes on zoom, he said: ‘I have improved IT skills during lockdown by learning how to use zoom which has enabled me to continue to participate in Open Age activities and helped me to stay connected to the church and other community organizations that I depend on. My state of mind is immeasurably different now. I look forward to my days and have become much more positive about all aspects of my life.’

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 47 January 2022 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 47 here.