East London Cares is a community network of younger and older neighbours, hanging out and helping each other out in our rapidly changing city.
Read their story below.
1. What is your organisation called and what does it do?
We are East London Cares and we encourage networks of young and old neighbours to interact because east London is one of the most amazing places in the world: its culture, its heritage, its businesses and its diversity all make this one of the best places to live, work and play. But as new office and apartment blocks go up in front of our eyes and whole swathes of the area are transformed by gentrification, transience and digitisation we can all sometimes feel left behind by the pace of change.
In that context, loneliness is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Across the UK, nine million adults say they often feel lonely – and that was before we all started isolating! So we connect people through social clubs: free group activities such as pub nights, drag queen karaoke, quizzes, sourdough baking and much more. Normally these take place in person across Tower Hamlets and Hackney, but at the moment they’re online or over the phone. We also match older and younger neighbours one-to-one for friendships over the long-term. Normally younger neighbours visit an older neighbour in their home, but for now, conversation and friendship-making is taking place over the phone.
2. What are the biggest challenges your organisation faces – now and in the coming years?
One of the biggest challenges our organisation faces – which has been highlighted by Covid-19 – is the digitisation of everything! The majority of our older neighbours don’t have access to the internet: supporting people to keep connected without it is increasingly challenging as we do more and more online.
3. Please can you describe something that you’ve learnt or that has surprised you during the COVID-19 crisis, if anything?
The crisis has forced us to think more creatively about how we tackle isolation and loneliness – and how we can bring joy into people’s homes. We’ve created #AloneTogether packs with the help of our older and younger neighbours. These are creative tasks – daily distractions – for every day of the month. Anyone can do the activities without access to the internet (we’re sending them out to hundreds of older neighbours via the post each month), but also anyone who wants to can download it for free. Lots of organisations are using the resource. As well as creative thinking, the crisis has also brought organisations closer together.
4. How can Broadgate and the businesses based here best support you – now and longer term?
Right now, you can sign up to volunteer: we need younger neighbours who’d be up for calling an older neighbour regularly. We’re matching up volunteers with an older neighbour who they call for an hour each week, for the next four months. You can sign up here.
5. What message do you most want businesses at Broadgate to remember from your blog?
Check in with anyone you think might be feeling lonely – whether they’re young or old. Make your great-aunt, your cousin or your mate feel remembered. Loneliness does not discriminate.
6. What are your hopes for the future?
That we’ll improve the connection, confidence, belonging, purpose and power of all east Londoners so that people feel part of our changing city rather than left behind by it.
7. Is there anything else, not covered above, that you particularly want to highlight?