Throughout the lockdown, we have all been finding new and interesting ways to connect with one another. Social interaction has been incredibly important for everyone’s mental health, wellbeing and sense of connection. Across the country, the people we support have been finding amazing ways to stay in each other’s lives and supporting each other when loneliness starts setting in.
In the South West of England, there are a number Sense services that provide amazing support for people living in that region. There are supported living homes, community services and even a Sense Café. Since the lockdown began, the people that were supported at these services saw fewer and fewer people and their social circles shrank.
It soon became impossible to see friends and families let alone organise fun sessions. Some of the people supported started becoming withdrawn as their favourite activities were put on hold. Tracy, from the Sense Multi-Sensory Impairment Team, came up with a brilliant idea to try and reconnect people who were feeling lonely: weekly video meetings.
Finding new ways to connect
Ensuring that everyone’s communication needs were being met proved to be a bit of a challenge. There was signing, speaking and gestures all interrupted by the glitches and freezes of the internet. Everyone talked about their week and how they found things while Tracy helped to facilitate the discussions and games.
The computers nearly burst with all the laughter and smiley faces, but that wasn’t the best part. Every single person who joined, was there to provide a bit of support and a friendly face. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to reduce loneliness.
Sense staff were doing their best to ensure that everyone was supported but interacting with a friend had a totally different effect. Sometimes, it was difficult to manage with lots of people talking and signing at the same time but for everyone to have all of their friends in one place filled them with energy.
One form of communication that often gets missed, is the form of poetry. The Intervenor Service supports a wide range of people to access the community and explore the world around them. For many people, this is a lifeline and a chance for social interaction. The service also provides amazing events for people to join and get to know one another.
Communicating through poetry
Accessing the community stopped become an option and the people who accessed that service lost that opportunity to socialise. The service manager, Deb, did her best to make sure that she stayed in contact with the families and individuals to provide them with whatever support they needed. Poetry was not on the list of her expectations.
A group of young people that are supported on their service decided that, to stay in contact, they would like to write poems to each other. After one was sent, the poems went flying back and forth. Each young person knew that their friends were thinking of them and looking out for them.
National Loneliness Week highlights some of the issues we all face when tackling loneliness. For people with disabilities, extra barriers are in place to make combatting loneliness more difficult. At Sense, we focus on connecting differently and that includes building and maintaining social bridges. The real importance and value in this has been highlighted during the lockdown where supporting people has taken a whole new meaning. Supporting people to support each other.