Reading Friends is our exciting new UK-wide programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which connects people by starting conversations through reading. Delivered by volunteers and co-produced with older people, Reading Friends meet regularly to chat and share stories in groups or one-to-one sessions. It aims to empower, engage and connect older people who are vulnerable and isolated, people with dementia and carers.
The programme has been running since June 2017 and has seen The Reading Agency work in partnership with a range of organisations and communities to test different approaches to delivery. Reading Friends entered its pilot phase in September 2018, which will see it expand to new areas across the UK.
Pilot projects will continue to deliver a range of shared reading models to connect older people in settings including libraries, care homes and sheltered housing. It will build on the experiences of the test phase to develop intergenerational opportunities, working with schools and colleges, as well as looking at ways to reach diverse and isolated communities.
The Reading Agency, Scottish Book Trust, Literature Wales and Verbal Northern Ireland run Reading Friends in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Where is Reading Friends being piloted?
- Oldham and Greater Manchester
- Sheffield and Doncaster
- West Sussex
Read former Strategic Director, Katie Pekacar's blog on how we developed 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↩