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Bus operator partners with Ageing Better Middlesbrough in drive to boost community support

10 Aug 2016

Stagecoach North East is working in partnership with Ageing Better Middlesbrough (ABM) to launch an initiative which aims to help reduce loneliness and social isolation for older people in Middlesbrough.

The local bus operator has joined forces with the Big Lottery Funded programme, led by Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind, in a campaign to build people’s confidence to get them out and about and back into their local community.

ABM staff will be heading out to Middlesbrough bus station to chat to bus users, raising awareness of the issues surrounding loneliness and social isolation and letting people know what is happening in Middlesbrough to reduce it.

They will demonstrate to older people, who may lack confidence in using digital technology, how simple it now is to track bus arrival times on smart phones and tablets with Stagecoach’s new live bus information service. This service enables passengers to see exactly when their bus is due at the stop and the stops and routes nearby, to help plan their journey more effectively.

The ABM team will also be speaking to bus passengers using a number of bus routes around the Middlesbrough communities to find out why people are travelling, to ask their views on social isolation in the community and raise awareness of the issues amongst people aged 50 and over affected by loneliness.

A marketing campaign will also be launched jointly by Stagecoach North East and ABM to support the scheme with posters on board buses across the town and leaflets for bus drivers and staff to hand out to passengers.

Michelle Dawson, Programme Manager at Ageing Better Middlesbrough, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with Stagecoach North East and meeting the people who use the buses regularly. Our aim is to work with the most lonely and isolated people. From our research we know that people use the buses for a variety of reasons including having contact with other people. This is an excellent opportunity to meet those people who use the buses regularly and to raise awareness of how we can help people feel less lonely and more connected to their community.”

Nathan Stanislawski, Operations Manager at Stagecoach North East’s Teesside depot, said: “As an organisation that provides a vital community service to connect friends and family, we fully support this initiative and hope that it helps older people overcome any fears or concerns that they may have about getting the bus, as well as opening up opportunities to meet new friends and enjoy the many sights, activities and leisure facilities on offer in and around Middlesbrough.

“Travelling by bus has never been easier, with our live bus tracking system to see exactly when the bus is due at the stop, easy access low floors and free Wi-Fi on many buses.”

In 2014, Age UK stated that 3.5 million people aged 65 and over live alone and a percentage of these said that they only leave their house once a week or less. It is estimated that 650,000 to 800,000 people aged 65+ in the UK describe themselves as always or often lonely.

The Campaign to End Loneliness says a range of support including transport is needed to overcome the ‘many triggers’ of loneliness faced in older age. 41 percent of those who feel lonely say that transport is a barrier to seeing people*.

In April 2015 Middlesbrough became one of 14 local authority areas awarded Big Lottery Funding. Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind successfully secured £6 million over six years to deliver a comprehensive programme to reduce loneliness and social isolation for people aged 50 and over in Middlesbrough. The ABM programme is a partnership of older people and local organisations working together to inspire people aged 50 and over to lead active, healthy and happy lives.