Reading Friends connects people by starting conversations through reading, giving opportunities to meet others, share stories, make new friends and have fun. It creates social connections and takes a person-centred approach, building on interests and hobbies of the people involved to get people talking. Reading Friends is delivered through community-based delivery partners by volunteers and staff. It was developed with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and government.
- 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
- By May 2020, 41% of UK adults reported feeling lonelier since lockdown, and 1 in 3 had not had a meaningful conversation in the last week.5
- By November 2020, 39% of UK adults said they have not had a meaningful conversation with someone in a fortnight, a third worry something will happen to them and no one will notice, and 2 in 5 people said loneliness is having a negative impact on their mental health.6
- Chronic loneliness can lead to poor physical and mental health, as well as poor personal wellbeing.7
Reading Friends has made a difference to people's lives - supporting wellbeing, creating meaningful connections, reducing loneliness and engaging more people in reading together for pleasure. Reading Friends had a powerful impact on communities - building social support networks, creating long-lasting connections and friendships.
Read our latest Reading Friends impact report for more information.
If you are interested in starting Reading Friends, volunteering or joining a group, please look at the groups near you or register your interest.
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↩
5. British Red Cross (2020) Life after lockdown: Tackling loneliness among those left behind↩
6.British Red Cross (2020) Lonely and Left Behind: Tackling Loneliness at a Time of Crisis↩
7. DCMS (2022) Tackling loneliness evidence review: executive summary