The Cares Family started in 2011 when our founder, Alex, was canvassing for votes as a council candidate in the local elections. As he was doing his rounds, knocking on doors, he met Fred, an 82-year-old neighbour who hadn't been out of his house for three months. Alex wheeled Fred in his wheelchair to the voting place, and the next day returned to help Fred get a hair cut.
As the pair became friends, it became clear that this was a truly mutual relationship: Fred was reducing his isolation through his interactions with Alex; and Alex was feeling more connected to his community than ever before, hearing about Fred's amazing stories and discovering what they have in common.
In that moment, the idea for The Cares Family was born.
Opening in 2011, North London Cares was the first branch. Over three years it developed new programmes to bring older and younger neighbours together to share time, friendship and new experiences through Social Clubs, a one-to-one Love Your Neighbour friendship programme, Outreach and Community Fundraising.
South London Cares followed in 2014. The two branches have now recruited 4,000 older people and 4,000 young professionals to be part of the community networks.
And in 2017 the latest branch of The Cares Family arrived – in another great, rapidly changing city: Manchester. In just a few months, 150 older people and 150 younger people have been part of Manchester Cares' Social Clubs and Outreach, and its Community Fundraising and Love Your Neighbour programmes are now developing.
The model is important because it targets the two groups most at risk of loneliness – and because it works. Two evaluations have shown that The Cares Family's programmes reduce isolation, improve relations across the generations and help people to feel happier, closer to community, miss other people less, and that they have more people to rely on in times of need.