NEARLY £1m will be invested in projects to tackle loneliness amongst North Yorkshire’s increasingly elderly population.

A range of innovative new projects have been launched by North Yorkshire County Council to tackle isolation and the impact it can have on people’s mental and physical health.

The council has set up an Innovation Fund to finance initiatives across the county such as pop-up community cafes, counselling services, performing arts workshops, volunteer schemes to help elderly people stay warm during winter. They also include fitness workshops and yoga training to prevent falls amongst the elderly.

The fund is worth nearly £1m overall, with more than £450,000 to be distributed in the first round.

The aim of the Innovation Fund, which has been set up by the county council, is to support the transformation of health and adult social care in North Yorkshire. It is also backed by NHS Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group and Craven District Council for the purpose of tackling fuel poverty.

Up to 41 projects across the county will be delivered by voluntary and community partners, including Rural Action Yorkshire, Age UK, Live Music Now, National Energy Action, Relate, Wellspring Therapy and Training and Purple Patch Arts.

The projects were chosen because they potentially address loneliness and isolation, prevent falls in the elderly, or support people to remain in their own homes.

They also involve the development of community hubs using village halls and other venues in rural areas for early social care intervention such as dementia befriending.

"The council is using this investment as a key part of its wider drive to help people to maintain their independence, and to encourage local communities to care for their residents", said county councillor Don MacKenzie, executive member for public health and prevention.

"North Yorkshire is home to an increasingly elderly population, for whom isolation is becoming a reality. As an authority, we are all too aware of the effects of loneliness on health and social care, and that overcoming isolation represents a major challenge across a rural county with sparse populations.

"We also wish to bring about a reduction in the number of falls suffered by our residents, because these so often lead people to become fearful and to withdraw from social activity. For these reasons, I welcome this next round of targeted investments by the Innovation Fund."

The Innovation Fund is managed by Your Consortium, an enterprise based in Knaresborough that aims to improve the lives of individuals and communities.