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A chit chat with….a Community Wellbeing Officer

21 August 2019

A chit chat with…Sandra Simmons, Community Wellbeing Officer for Age UK

Tell us about your role

I currently work in a team of four on the Living Well Waltham Forest for Age UK, which is a pilot project for the Social Prescribing Network. The aim is to help the people we work with maintain quality of life by creating personalised wellbeing plans, helping them to access services, groups and volunteer support in the community.

Are there things that generally work to improve wellbeing?

It’s very much down to the individual so this is hard to answer but generally speaking I would say exercise of some type, getting out and about and having somebody to talk to. If they need professional support or health services, making sure they have access to that.

As a general starting point when planning activities geared at improving wellbeing, I’ve learnt over the years that it’s most effective when you start with what people want to do, not with what you think they should do. Everywhere and everyone is different. Anyone who’s worked in community-facing roles will have had experiences of people not coming to an event or activity, so we need to listen to get the content right.

What leads to social isolation for a lot of the people you support?

While physical health can undoubtedly be a barrier, it’s often more about mental wellbeing. For example, transport is a big barrier for many – some people have a fear of buses, trains or crowds and we have to understand how hard it is for some people to travel.

What makes you passionate about the work you do?

I can empathise with a lot of the people I support as I’ve had issues myself; being able to bring your full self to the conversation and make clients feel understood in regards to the obstacles they face is really important.

It’s great to see the impact you’re having, however big or small; for example somebody once told me “I feel alive now” – they had gone from feeling as though life was over to feeling like there’s nothing they couldn’t achieve. Even small changes can have a huge impact.

What can we all do to enhance community wellbeing?

Consider volunteering for an organisation that does something you’re interested in e.g. gardening, dancing, crafting. Then you can link in with end users in an activity you’re both interested in, which is beneficial all-round.

Talk to your neighbours, offer to help and let them know in an emergency they can come to you. Even saying hello one day can be a small start. A smile could really lift somebody.

Sandra kindly spoke to us for the Community Wellbeing issue of our digital newsletter. You can read the rest of the newsletter here.