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Meet the Newington Green volunteer group tackling isolation of older people...with dogs

PUBLISHED: 15:10 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:33 03 May 2018

A well-behaved dog at one of the recent Pets Against Loneliness meetings. Picture: Lyn Ambrose

A well-behaved dog at one of the recent Pets Against Loneliness meetings. Picture: Lyn Ambrose

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Dogs are the best ice breakers. Lyn Ambrose thinks they can also tackle social isolation.

Pets Against Loneliness meets at New Unity Meeting House. Founder Lyn Ambrose, second left, is pictured with volunteers. Picture: Lyn AmbrosePets Against Loneliness meets at New Unity Meeting House. Founder Lyn Ambrose, second left, is pictured with volunteers. Picture: Lyn Ambrose

It’s why she has formed voluntary group Pets Against Loneliness in Newington Green.

It’s simple: a friendly, welcoming space for older people – who may be feeling lonely – to meet and spend time with dogs and their owners.

Western culture is guilty of under-valuing elderly people, and it leads to isolation.

For Lyn, dogs were the hook in her plan to fight this. “Animals are always ice breakers. You see it every day in the street: someone will see a cute dog and start talking to the owner. It’s a really simple idea.

“In the entire country, there’s an issue with loneliness of the older generation. They have a lot to offer and our society doesn’t always recognise this.

“There are huge contrasts with how other cultures treat older people. Asian and African cultures in particular are much more integrated.”

Lyn Ambrose, founder of Pets Against Loneliness in Newington Green. Picture: Lyn AmbroseLyn Ambrose, founder of Pets Against Loneliness in Newington Green. Picture: Lyn Ambrose

Lyn, 47, a medical research scientist who has lived in Newington Green since 2010, knows her monthly meetings at New Unity Meeting House aren’t going to solve the problem outright. But they are a start.

The idea came to her in November. “It’s something I thought I would do when I retire. But my friend Tam and I were talking about it and decided to do it there and then.

“I took out a napkin and started writing a plan on it. We recruited a group of friends, keeping it voluntary rather than a formal organisation, so we could start sooner.”

Thirty people attended the first gathering in March, and Lyn is confident the number will grow in the summer.

Younger people are encouraged to come along with any older parents, grandparents, neighbours or friends who they think would benefit.

It has been supported by nearby businesses such as Belle Epoque, House of Locks and Lizzy’s on the Green. Lyn added: “I wanted to connect people and as a result of this project, I actually feel much more connected with my community. It was a totally unintended side effect.”

The next Pets Against Loneliness event takes place on Saturday, 10am to noon, at New Unity Meeting House, Newington Green, N16 9PR. For more information, email lynambrose@gmail.com or call 07886 674190.

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