Monmouthshire to trial map of 'loneliness risk areas'

Dorothy Griggs at work
Image caption Dorothy Griggs, 87, worked for British Aerospace for 25 years

A map identifying areas where people are most at risk of feeling lonely and isolated is to be trialled.

Monmouthshire will be the first place in the UK to test the new digital technology, which identifies the "loneliest" parts of the county.

It then matches residents' interests to activities nearby, and works out a way of getting them there.

If successful, it could be rolled out to the rest of the UK.

Dorothy Griggs, 87, hopes the UK government-funded project will help combat her feelings of loneliness and isolation, which started after her husband of 60 years, Alfred, died.

Image caption Dorothy Griggs says she has felt lonely since the death of her husband

"We went everywhere in the car and I miss that," said Mrs Griggs, from Monmouthshire, who worked for British Aerospace for 25 years making prototype circuit boards for the space programme.

"It wasn't very nice, you've lost your other half... time is going past, you need to do something to occupy the time.

"I've never been a lonely person, I've always had friends around me, but I just felt lonely and isolated."

The company Box Clever Digital will find out residents' likes and dislikes via an app or website - or call people if they are uncomfortable with digital technology - and match their preferences to classes, activities or groups being held in the county.

Dan Scobie, the company's chief technology officer, hopes it will cater to people of all ages.

"The first thing we are looking to do is understand that individual and understand what really makes their heart sing, so we know their preferences - their wants, desires and needs," he said.

"We would then be able to contact them and say, are you aware there's an arts class happening next Thursday in Mardy, would you like to go?

"We can then go on to offer supported transport to actually get them there."

The company will help identify empty seats in cars, buses and taxis and use them to take people to things they are interested in.

It is also hoped the technology will promote lift-sharing schemes and reduce social care costs

Who feels lonely?

The National Survey for Wales 2016-17 found 54% of people surveyed experienced some feelings of loneliness, with younger people more likely to feel lonely than older people.

It found 20% of 16-24 year olds were lonely, compared to 10% of those aged 75 or over.

Clare Delargy from the Behavioural Insights Team, which is mapping Monmouthshire's lonely hot spots for the project, said: "We know that increasing awareness of events alone is not enough to overcome psychological barriers to attending them, so our approach also addresses the social fears which may hinder participation, particularly for those who are lonely or isolated."

The companies will receive funding from the UK government's GovTech Catalyst fund to trial the ideas.

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