Reading Friends is our exciting new UK-wide befriending project, funded by The Big Lottery. It aims to empower, engage and connect older people who are vulnerable and isolated, people with dementia and carers by starting conversations through reading. It is co-produced with older people and delivered through volunteers, called Reading Partners.
From June 2017 to June 2018, we will be working in partnership with a range of organisations and communities across six areas of the UK to test different approaches to delivering the Reading Friends programme.
The test projects will adopt a range of social reading models including one-to-one befriending and reading groups to connect older people in different settings including libraries, care homes and sheltered housing.
Reading Friends is delivered with public libraries, local communities and voluntary organisations. It is currently being run in England, Scotland and Wales by The Reading Agency, Scottish BookTrust and Literature Wales.
Where is Reading Friends being tested?
• West Sussex
Read Strategic Director, Katie Pekacar's blog on how we are developing Reading Friends
Find out more about the test sites in England
Find out more about the test site in Wales
Why Reading Friends matters
• Loneliness and social isolation is a significant health and wellbeing issue for older people. 8-10% of people aged 65 and older are often or always lonely, while 12% feel socially isolated1
• Research shows that reading together can help older people to build social networks and connect with others. Evidence also shows that reading has a positive impact on empathy, cognitive function and wellbeing and can reduce the risk of dementia2
• Age UK's research shows that maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around you is key to wellbeing. Taking part in activities that support wellbeing is most difficult for people who are lonely and isolated or in poor health3
• It also finds that creative and cultural participation makes the highest contribution to an older person's wellbeing4
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1. Oxfordshire Age UK (2012) Loneliness - the state we're in p.13↩
2. BOP Consulting for The Reading Agency (2015) Literature Review: the impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment]↩
3. Hughes et al (2010) Engagement in reading and hobbies and risk of incident dementia: The MoVIES project OECD ↩
4. Age UK, Green et al (2017) Age UK's Index of Wellbeing in Later Life↩