Our project is all about tackling isolation and loneliness through building hope and aspiration. We will be using canal boats to connect older people with each other and with the massively under-realised social opportunities and leisure benefits available to them through the built and natural heritage along both the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and Aire & Calder Navigation that bisect the city. Our approach is organic and involves short, frequent contacts facilitated by a consistency in staff, aimed at:
Enhancing social support
Increasing opportunities for social interaction
Improving social skills
Addressing maladaptive social cognition (e.g. social anxiety, lack of self-esteem)
Our target audience will, primarily, be men living alone, coping with personal circumstances which reduce their social networks and confidence and whose social and cultural needs are not fully met.
The waterways provide a neutral space which has meaning for all groups. A boat takes people gently out of their individual comfort zones and the novelty of this environment relaxes and opens them up to opportunities for talking, doing and being. Once on a canal boat everyone starts off with the same disadvantage - they are in a new and unusual environment. Within a very short space of time, people begin to identify themselves with the boat, not with who they are or where they are from; they become a floating micro-community, seeing the world from a different perspective.