This project was a collaboration between Verbal and Radius Housing. Verbal carried out a Shared Reading programme designed to improve wellbeing, quality of life and loneliness across Radius Housing folds in Northern Ireland.

Research indicates that aging populations are at risk of poor wellbeing and feelings of isolation, and these feelings have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic (Heidinger & Richter, 2020; Krendl & Perry, 2021).

Interventions delivered within community groups, particularly arts-based interventions that include social components such as group discussions, are an effective method of improving mental wellbeing, quality of life and connectedness with others. We partnered with Radius Housing to deliver a Shared Reading programme directly within housing folds to improve wellbeing and quality of life and to reduce loneliness.

This intervention was delivered in 18 housing folds to 131 residents, encompassing 130 storytelling sessions delivered across 195 hours.

Mental wellbeing improved in 50% of participants and symptoms of anxiety significantly reduced after taking part. Improvements in wellbeing were highest in the oldest group of residents, and symptoms of anxiety reduced by 85% in women.

The largest improvements in quality of life were found for energy levels, feeling independent, and feeling fresh and relaxed, suggesting that the programme could have a rejuvenating and relaxing effect on participants. 28% of participants felt less lonely after taking part and participants were significantly more likely to feel supported by family, friends and their neighbours.

Additional data analyses identified groups of mostly vulnerable and disabled participants who reported high levels of anxiety, loneliness, and poor mental wellbeing. As Verbal are committed to every story mattering, we feel it is imperative for further interventions to target and improve the lives of these residents. Recommendations include loneliness and reminiscence curriculums that encourage reflection and introspection, provides support, and helps people to connect and bond with others.

To read the full report, please click here.

To view a summary infographic of findings, please click here