Social isolation: Citizens rewarded for “life-changing” work

Kind-hearted neighbours who have “changed the lives” of the lonely and isolated across Birmingham have been rewarded for the work they are doing to boost the physical and mental health of those most in need.

Citizens at the heart of Ageing Better in Birmingham, a £6 million National Lottery funded programme to drive down isolation across the city in the over 50s, have been recognised as the driving force behind the “life-changing” scheme under the programme’s Ageing Better Awards. So far more than 4,700 people aged over 50 have been helped to lead more fulfilling lives.

Mohammed Gulfam, aged 65 from Small Heath, was awarded the Best Contribution to the Cause for helping to improve the quality of life for a group of mainly South Asian men over 50 after setting up the Healthy Eating Club in Small Heath, Sparkbrook.

People attend the club at the Asian Elderly Welfare Association and share in the planning and preparation of meals, before they eat together. Mohammed works hard to promote better understanding of healthy eating, budgeting money and food safety.

Commenting on Mohammed’s work, nominator, Stephen Campbell said: “He is a caring and passionate individual and with the help of other volunteers has made the group a real success. He has helped to improve the quality of life for a group of mainly South Asian men.”

The group represents a valuable opportunity for them to gather together, socialise and make new friends.

Stephen added: “In some cases, this might be the only opportunity an individual has to meet up with others, making it especially important to them. It’s fair to say he has a heart of gold and has made a huge difference to his local community.”
Indoor Sports for all Generations, a sports group who meet at the Moseley Sports Centre in Springfield Road, won the title of Best Ageing Better Activity.

The group, run by 48-year-old Anes Ceric from Hall Green, has supported people of all ages, particularly people over 50 from the Eastern European community, in Sparkbrook to get involved in playing or watching sport.

Nita Upadhyay and Nigel Brookhouse nominated the group for the award. Commenting on their decision they said: “Many members from the Eastern European community do not speak English, suffer from post war trauma and are on low income. As a result, many are isolated and excluded from sports activities.

“The Ageing Better fund enabled people to come together to play basketball or if they were less mobile, they were able to watch. Around 50 people from the community got involved and this was down to the passionate lead and volunteers that set the group up. The activities on offer have boosted the physical and mental health of those who attend and their confidence.”

So far 4,700 people have benefited from the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme, which was launched in April 2015 and delivered by an Ageing Better Partnership, led by Birmingham Voluntary Service Council. Community events, clubs and activities have been adapted and developed to encourage more people to take part, get together and form new initiatives.

Stephen Raybould, Ageing Better in Birmingham Programme Director, said:

“The work of all the people who give their time freely to the cause of helping others can have a life-changing impact on the lives of those most in need. These awards take place to reward those groups who are delivering the values of Ageing Better.

Together they successfully promote inclusivity, to generate positive change amongst people of all ages. The awards focus on the positive aspect of ageing by connecting people by increasing social and community connections and enabling people over 50 to have their voices heard.

All of these people have gone above and beyond in their communities and we would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone involved.”

Ageing Better in Birmingham is part of the National Lottery funded Ageing Better programme set up by the Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. Ageing Better aims to develop creative ways for older people to be actively involved in their local communities, helping to combat social isolation and loneliness.

For information about programmes taking place near you, email: ageingbetter@bvsc.org or call 0121 678 8876.

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