Award for student fighting the loneliness epidemic among Bristols elderly

Award for student fighting the loneliness epidemic among Bristols elderly

A selfless student who organised for 150 Christmas cards to be sent to lonely Bristol pensioners has been honoured with a special award.

Jade Bruce was behind a project that saw more than 100 University of Bristol students handwrite personalised messages for the elderly residents of St Monica’s Trust, a retirement village in Westbury-on-Trym.

“Loneliness is an epidemic which disproportionally affects older people,” the 21-year-old said.

“According to Age UK, two out of five older people say the TV is their main source of company. I found this statistic shocking, and knew the pandemic was only going to make things worse.”

The University has now presented Jade, from Shropshire, with their Outstanding Award, an accolade given to just a handful of students each year who go beyond the call of duty to make positive change in society.

During her second year at University, the Cellular and Molecular Medicine student volunteered for Link Ages, a project that reduces isolation among older people.

“While helping older people understand how to use technology I realised just how many barriers they can face when simply wanting to connect with others,” said Jade.

She became project co-ordinator of Link Ages in her final year and hit upon the idea of handwritten Christmas cards.

“Many older people spend Christmas alone, something made far worse by the pandemic,” she explained. “Gathering 150 personalised messages was tricky with Covid restrictions, but the overwhelmingly positive response from students was incredibly heart-warming.

“It was great to connect two isolated demographics, older and younger people, at such a difficult time.”

Each year more than 1,000 students take part in the PLUS Award, a year-long initiative that helps students grow through extra curricular activities such as volunteering. The Award, run by the University of Bristol’s Careers Service, also makes students more employable.

A handful of those who take part in the PLUS Award go on to achieve the more challenging Outstanding Award.

Stuart Johnson, Director of the University’s Careers Service, said: “We are constantly inspired by how hard our students work to improve the lives of those around them – all while studying full-time.

“Although more than 1,000 people were involved in the PLUS Award, the kindness in Jade’s Christmas card campaign really stood out.”

Jade finishes at the University of Bristol this year and is going on to study medicine at Kings College London.