Standing Together - what is it, and who is it helping?
The Standing Together Project helps improve the emotional health and community connections of older people living in supported housing and reduces loneliness and isolation.
Since late summer 2015, project staff have been organising weekly self-help groups for six-month periods in retirement and extra care housing settings. The groups are for tenants who are experiencing memory loss, mental health issues, learning disabilities, and experience significant loneliness. Our research team is evaluating the project. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund (formally the Big Lottery) for three years, it’s planned to organise up to 25 groups in four groups, building on our self-help and dementia pilot project.
This project is a partnership between the Mental Health Foundation and Housing & Care 21, a UK housing organisation providing social housing and support to people in later life, including people with dementia. We also now have a new partner in Notting Hill Housing.
Run your own Standing Together project
We have created a co-produced toolkit building on the success of Standing Together. We can help you produce your own Standing Together project, which includes dedicated staff training.
How do the groups work?
The groups begin by building relationships with staff and tenants and holding ‘taster’ sessions for potential participants.
Initially, ground rules are developed to help people think about what they want from each other to keep the group safe spaces. It’s an opportunity to talk about what people hope for from the groups and to establish that the groups belong to the participants, not the organisers.
Group activities are based on themes which might be seasonal or practical, as well as emotional. As the first set of groups began in the summer, a starting point was holiday memories, using items such as postcards and sticks of rock for reminiscence and an activity exploring the meaning of each others' names.
Why self-help groups?
This model of self-help groups is based on building relationships with people, seeing them regularly, and listening to and initiating conversations. We believe we are affecting people’s quality of life. People tell us they enjoy the groups and thank us for organising them. They are visibly enlivened by the groups, the opportunity to talk, share experiences, and reflect on managing life’s complexities. It’s an amazing experience to be able to see the positive effect the groups can have on people.
There’s a lot of fear around older people expressing difficult emotions. Still, I think being able to express difficult emotions and having them validated is an important part of life.
We have written a book, 'Pulling Together', which we hope will support people to continue to hold these very important conversations and to set up groups like Standing Together in their communities.
Picture This is a new digital creative program designed to help people in later life who are experiencing digital exclusion. Based on our successful Standing Together program, Picture This has taken the core principles and developed them for online use.
Candy Worf talks about the remarkable stories of one of our Standing Together groups – the ‘Rotherhithe Babes’ – and why she wrote a book about them.