Research shows that social connections are key to experiencing a good later life. For some people this is about having an active social life – engaging with their community, pursuing hobbies and interests.
In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there are thousands of community-based activities that can help people to stay connected. There are also hundreds of organisations offering important health and care services. We have been working in collaboration with Age UK Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, their staff, volunteers, GPs, Macmillan Cancer Research and other partners from the voluntary sector to create an online community directory for community groups and social activities.
The Cornwall Link website was launched in December 2017 and has appealed to a variety of community and clinical stakeholders who value signposting people to community resources and non-medical links. In 2018, the directory posted over 700 community listings - everything from yoga classes to knitting clubs and community transport schemes. It also had over 10,000 unique visitors, 52% of whom were over 50 - proof perhaps that older people are online and looking for information.
The directory is successfully complimenting Age UK Cornwall's Helpline - a self-funded telephony service that received over 5,000 calls in 2018 - by refining community resources and healthcare services around an individual’s needs. The online 'guided conversation' is a holistic questionnaire that suggests relevant social activities and support based on an individual’s preferences, geography, health, lifestyle and environment. This has been a major success.
Here are some of The Cornwall Link’s features:
- Filters that refine a user’s search by location, support needs, interests or health conditions.
- An ‘add to favourites’ option which stores a user’s favourite resources whilst they continue browsing.
- The ability to submit community activities, support services and volunteering opportunities.
- A showcase of community stories.
- A resource area for volunteers and practitioners.
The Cornwall Link is changing
The current Cornwall Link directory was built as a proof of concept in Wordpress and has been inundated with requests to post public and community-led services. Not everyone is ready or has the means to engage with community activities straight away however - preferring perhaps to engage with their GP first. The Cornwall Link's vision is to become a hub for people to make social connections and skills exchanges - a place to engage with both activities in, and members of, the community.
In support of this vision, Age UK Cornwall, Veor Surgery and Made Open are piloting an improved community directory in the town of Camborne (Cornwall) utilising the Made Open platform. This will test various 'social prescribing' referral pathways from GPs to Link Workers and also enable self-referrals. We will capture the following data on users:
- Their ‘social CV’ (e.g. number of hours volunteers, credits earnt, events attended, connections made)
- Their self-defined goals and progress made against each.
- Their ‘Best Match’ (interests, skills, support needs, health conditions etc).
- Whether or not they have been referred (either by themselves or by someone else) to a Link Worker.
- Total no of users being referred by their GP (if via our platform).
- Total no of referred users creating social prescription.
This is an exciting project. What we're hoping to prove in the fullness of time is that connecting people to their communities, either directly or indirectly via Link Workers, can have a positive impact across the whole eco-system.