RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS

Student & elderly mental health initiative launches nationwide in UK

SOURCE: Noah Silliman/Unsplash
A third of students experience loneliness on a weekly basis.


By U2B Staff 

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An initiative that connects student and elderly communities to help both groups battle loneliness and mental health will be rolled out nationwide in the UK this year, following its successful debut in Sheffield.

Called ‘Together’ by student accommodation marketplace Student.com, the initiative pairs students with aged care home residents to spark conversation and forge friendships, reducing their exposure to the negative impact of loneliness on mental health and wellbeing. 

“Headlines this year within the higher education sector have been dominated around student mental health and loneliness,” Student.com General Manager for EMEA Dan Baker pointed out in a media release.

The problem will only continue, he said, even as the industry seeks solutions to mitigate its impact on the student community.

‘Together’ was created for exactly this purpose.

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According to Student.com, 70 percent of students experience loneliness whilst at university. A combination of academic, social and financial pressures make it hard for them to adjust to a new lifestyle in a foreign place and to maintain healthy daily routines.

Without a remedy, loneliness could turn into a deeper student mental health problem.

In the UK, a recent poll of some 38,000 students reported “alarmingly high” levels of anxiety, loneliness, substance abuse and thoughts of self-harm, suggesting rates of psychological distress and mental illnesses are on the rise in universities here.

Loneliness also impacts the UK’s elderly communities; charity organisation Age UK says that more than 1.7 million people in the country report they could go for a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

Seeing an opportunity to bring these communities together, Student.com launched ‘Together’ in Sheffield last August, working in partnership with aged care homes charity Sheffcare and accommodation provider Student Roost.

Through the initiative, students volunteer to spend time with their paired care home resident, also known as ‘Together’ buddy, and in return, residents are encouraged to share advice and experiences on a variety of topics from relationships to jobs and life issues.

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The programme has been well-received by Sheffield’s student and elderly communities.

“It’s really encouraging to see the interest by students in the Together initiative,” Baker said.

“It shows that students are keen to become part of their local community whilst at university, especially if they are coming from another city or country to study, to help their sense of belonging.”

Encouraged by the programme’s success in Sheffield, Student.com has decided to move forward with a nationwide rollout of ‘Together’.

“We are delighted that we are able to take Together nationwide, and look forward to hearing first-hand of the benefits experienced by care home residents and students as we continue the Together journey,” Baker adds.

‘Together’ will be open to participation early 2020 in Liverpool, Swansea, Birmingham and Edinburgh.