Loneliness…how Community Circles is supporting people to stay connected

There’s a quote I hear around Christmas time;

“It’s not what’s under the tree that matters, it’s who’s around it”

As well as the quotes and Facebook posts about the importance of being with family and friends and the celebrations of spending time with loved ones, there is much in the news about isolation and the impact that loneliness has on our health.

Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences.

A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us.  Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones.  One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent.


Christmas is a particularly difficult time, when almost a million people aged over 60 say they feel lonelier, according to figures from Age UK, which estimates some 1.2 million people in England are chronically lonely.  Instead of telling friends and family they’re suffering, 3 in 10 older people say they hide their feelings of isolation, professing instead that they enjoy the “peace and quiet” of being alone, and widowed people are even more likely to suffer in silence, Churchill Retirement Living’s survey shows.


Community Circles is supporting people to stay connected, to family, friends and their local community.  Where people are feeling isolated, the circle can support people to reconnect or start to develop new connections.

At EachStep Blackburn, Community Integrated Care’s new specialist dementia care home, each person has a Community Circle.  We are already seeing great outcomes for people where their circle is supporting them to stay connected with family or keep involved with the things they love.

Particularly this Christmas we have seen some lovely connections developing and growing.

The purpose of Arthur’s circle is to keep him connected with DIY and have a valued role.  Supporting him to achieve this, he spends time with Paul, the facilities officer on a Friday completing the household checks.  Lovely to see Arthur’s delight when Paul gave him a Christmas present and thanked him for his support.

Margaret’s circle supports her to stay connected to her faith community.  Morning mass is difficult for Margaret to attend but on Christmas Eve she was able to come to mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, with her family and my family.  As well as Margaret’s pleasure in attending mass it was lovely to see her chatting to members of her parish and reconnecting with her neighbours.

Our relationship with the local church supports Margaret to have weekly visits from Joyce, the Eucharistic Minister, to receive communion along with other people that she lives with.  Dorothy, another lady we support, regular attends the weekly visit from Joyce, receiving a blessing and asked if she could convert to the Catholic faith.  Father Barry supported Dorothy to convert, with me having the honour of being her sponsor and a first selfie for Fr Barry.


Dorothy attended her first mass on Christmas Eve, warmly welcomed into her church family with a round of applause and messages of congratulations from her parish.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Dorothy’s relationships develop.

Going to mass on Christmas Eve is an important part of my Christmas traditions, made even more special this year through being with Margaret and Dorothy.

As Reverend Alan Poolton says;

“Being a part of a circle is a very precious kind of privilege because it involves being welcomed into the heart of a family.  I get back far more than I give in return”

Relationships and connections matter; if you want to be a part of making a difference to someone through Community Circles, whilst supporting your own wellbeing, do get in touch


Cath Barton

Community Circles Connector