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Compassion and empowerment for older people in England

An innovative voluntary befriending and advocacy scheme to ensure that vulnerable older people receive essential guidance about their End of Life rights is just one of ten initiatives sharing in over £10 million flagship funding from the  Big Lottery Fund’s Silver Dreams Fund.

The Silver Dreams Fund was the first of the Big Lottery Fund’s dedicated investments for older people in England, and is run in association with the Daily Mail.

Awarded over £1 million recently Compassion in Dying - My Life, My Decision, a project partnership with local Age UK’s,  will use the funding to expand a vital service across East London, Hillingdon, Oxfordshire, Trafford, Lancashire, South Tyneside and South Lakeland. It originally received £139, 888 for its pilot project

Piloted in East London, the scheme will expand across England to provide key training for Age UK volunteers to support vulnerable older people to make informed decisions about their medical treatment at the end of life, and to communicate their wishes with family, carers and health care professionals. The scheme will also provide assistance with Advance Decisions forms, and Health and Personal Welfare Lasting Power of Attorneys.

The project will also work to raise increasing awareness of End-of-Life rights among GP’s and other health care professionals, care homes, and community groups.

Jan’s story

Jan Williams: “I found the My Life, My Decision training scheme incredibly helpful. I had recently made an Advance Decision for myself, supported by my GP, to set out what treatment I would and would not like at the end of my life, in case I am unable to communicate those wishes at the time.

I don’t want to put my family through a difficult situation if I became unable to communicate these wishes, or rely on a doctor who doesn’t know me to make decisions for me.
“After attending the training session I am now going to revisit my Advance Decision and add to it to make it as clear and specific as possible. I learnt about the positive and negative effects of resuscitation, as well as the effects of several conditions that I may encounter, and what type of treatment I could expect.

“With this new information I can now make a fully informed decision on the type of care I want and don’t want at the end of my life and I have the knowledge to take control over my own care, providing me with the peace of mind to know that I have an end of life care plan in place for when the time comes.”                                                   

Danielle Hamm, Director of Compassion in Dying said: “We are delighted to have received funding from the Big Lottery Fund to expand our end-of-life advocacy service & training across England.  Everyone will experience death, which can be overwhelmingly distressing, particularly without preparation. Planning for the end of life can reduce distress and yet, for many, talking about death remains a ‘taboo’ subject. Fear of the unknown, losing control and dignity, lack of knowledge about legal rights and cultural factors make planning for end of life challenging.

“Our outreach work in East London has proved that, given the right support and tools, individuals and professionals alike, become confident talking about quality of dying and planning ahead for the end of life.  Now, thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, we are going to be able to expand this outreach service and make a real difference to the lives of over 24,000 older people across England.”

Dharmendra Kanani, Big Lottery Fund England Director said: “Today’s grants will help support so many different groups of older people from isolated older men setting up hen houses in care home settings to addressing their social isolation through dining clubs. Their work today will help develop new ways of supporting older people for future generations to come.
“Compassion in Dying successfully demonstrated their plans to expand and replicate the great work they have already started for more older people to benefit.  They are just one of ten projects to share £10 million today.”

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail advice columnist, writer and Silver Dreams Fund committee member said: “It was so telling to realise that so many of the projects which applied for Silver Dreams funding were tackling issues which arise in my Daily Mail advice column, especially a sense of isolation amongst older people. But just to read the applications was to feel uplifted. All the projects reach out to men and women who have paid their debt to society and now experience (variously) isolation, bereavement, alcohol abuse and the fear of ill health and the end of life. And all are run by committed individuals with the passion and expertise to bring the ‘dreams’ to fruition. Those people – and all the volunteers who give time and energy – deserve gratitude and celebration.”  

Further information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website:
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Statistics on older people and ageing

  • There are 10.3 million people aged 65 and over in the UK. This is an 80 per cent increase over six decades, from in 1951. (House of Commons Library, Population ageing: statistics, Tom Rutherford, 10 Feb 2012)
  • 51% more people aged 65 and over in England in 2030 compared to 2010 (Ready for Ageing? House of Lords, March 14, 2013)
  • 101% more people aged 85 and over in England in 2030 compared to 2010 (Ready for Ageing? House of Lords, March 14, 2013)
  • Research demonstrates that loneliness and social isolation have a similar impact on mortality as smoking, and is worse than obesity. It has significant links to a range of chronic conditions, including hypertension, depression, and dementia – increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%. (
  • A survey of over 1,000 older people (March 2013) suggests that people aged over-65s spend on average over 6 waking hours alone every day. (
  • It is estimated that 80% more people aged 65 and over with dementia (moderate or severe cognitive impairment) in England and Wales by 2030 compared to 2010 (Ready for Ageing? House of Lords, March 14, 2013)

Notes to Editors

  • Silver Dreams from the Big Lottery Fund in association with the Daily Mail was launched on 30 Sept 2011. It was the first tranche of a £135 million investment in England for older people.
  • In June 2012 37 projects shared in £6 million for pilot projects through Silver Dreams Fund. Each could then apply for up to £1 million funding to replicate and expand their projects.
  • Since 2004, BIG has funded close to £25.4 million in grants benefitting older people across England.
  • BIG’s pledge to older people investments currently includes Fulfilling Lives; Ageing Better - £70 million: Centre for Ageing Better - £50 million; Silver Dreams Fund - £16 million; Research for Impact - £5 million and £26.6 million to over 54,000 veterans through Heroes Return 2.
  • The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 BIG has awarded close to £6bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was returned to the Good Causes.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £31 billion has been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment

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