Researching loneliness and isolation

Interview with Connect Hackney Researcher-in Residence, Dr Darren Miguel Sharpe

“We need to tease out what the ageing population really needs.”

Dr Sharpe recently joined the Connect Hackney team to evaluate Connect Hackney’s impact and potential legacy.

Q. Please tell us about your work with Connect Hackney.

DS: My role is to collect evidence about the impact and change resulting from Connect Hackney, particularly in relation to ageing, loneliness and connections to community.

Q. How will you evaluate Connect Hackney?

DS: Nationally, the fourteen Ageing Better programmes are using one standard method called the Common Measurement Framework, so our evaluation isn’t happening in isolation. The framework is a set of basic measures looking at mental wellbeing and social connectiveness. Everyone who accesses a Connect Hackney activity is asked to complete the framework questionnaire.

Locally we are also doing a deep dive; we are using a variety of methods to look behind the quantitative data. What does loneliness and isolation for the ageing population really mean for different groups within Hackney? What is the ageing experience if you have a hearing impairment, if travel is your issue, or if you are bereaved?

Q. Why is it important that we evaluate Connect Hackney?

DS: It’s all about sustainability. We need to tease out what the ageing population really needs – people are living longer but not necessarily living healthier.

We need local solutions to local problems and we need to tailor solutions to what people say they need. That’s the value of this kind of investment of time and effort – finding out what works will enable us to scale up services or broaden services out, so that Connect Hackney is reaching more people living in isolation.

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