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Unlimited Support

We take a look at some of the projects being launched by social entrepreneurs to help protect the mental health of Britain’s aging society.

The UK is currently undergoing an incredible demographic shift with potentially far-reaching consequences for society, the economy and public service provision. A hugely improved life expectancy, one of the great triumphs of the last century, looks set to be one of the great challenges of this one.

By 2020, 15.5 million people will be over 65 years old, with people over the age of 50 making up 47% of the total adult population. Existing systems are already struggling to cope. We often read about the physical challenges of this ageing population, but what is often forgotten about is the impact on the mental health of many older citizens.

That’s one of the reasons UnLtd, provider of resources for social entrepreneurs, supported 21 social projects to transform the experience of ageing. These award winners, part of the Solutions for an Ageing Society programme, funded by the Coutts Foundation, were recognised at a

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major event in Central London at the end of March.

The programme’s social entrepreneurs are providing innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population, including support for people living with dementia, rethinking the care home experience and tackling isolation and loneliness. In total, they have benefitted almost 7,000 people from around the UK.

MOVING ON UP Tony Jameson-Allen, Co-Founder of Sporting Memories Network, set up his social venture to help people in later life become happier and healthier by developing positive mental health through tapping into a passion for sport that connects communities and generations. The work is volunteer-led, free, and takes place in a multitude of settings including libraries, museums, care environments and professional sports grounds. These are groups bringing sports fans over the age of

50, regardless of any health or social issues they may have, together to chat, reminisce, debate and discuss their own sporting memories.

Many of the volunteers helping run the groups are themselves retired or over the age of 50. The positive impact of volunteering on our mental health and wellbeing is widely documented. Increasingly, these groups also include activities and events staged and supported by younger people from schools, academies, universities and other charitable programmes. These present an opportunity to introduce learning to younger people about health ageing and the importance of maintaining our own mental health.

The core focus of Sporting Memories Network’s work is to address three major challenges facing an ageing society – loneliness, dementia and depression. The groups not only offer the chance to make new friends and take part in fun, friendly physical and mentally stimulating activities, but also offer the chance for peer support.

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