It’s a really exciting time for Catherine McClen, who has recently launched the pilot of her new business, BuddyHub, in Islington. BuddyHub’s mission is to alleviate loneliness and isolation, particularly in the older generation, by connecting communities together to build social networks around a person in need. We speak to Catherine to find out more about BuddyHub and how her idea has evolved into reality.
How did the idea for BuddyHub come about?
Loneliness and isolation can occur at any time during people’s lives, but are commonly experienced by older people. As we grow older and go through life’s transitions – such as retirement, our social networks tend to shrink. This, combined with the reality that we are living much longer, can mean that some people are facing 20, 30, perhaps even 40 years of life with a very small network of family and friends and some have almost none. This has wide reaching impacts on quality of life and can lead to poor health outcomes. I don’t want to live in a society where people are marginalised to the edges, everybody should be included and that’s something that I feel very strongly about.
I have always loved the company of older people and really value it. Responding to news about loneliness and isolation, I decided I want to help. I approached befriending charities, but was faced with barriers to joining them – worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the commitment and might let someone down if life got too busy. That’s when I had my lightbulb moment, as I realised that I could solve this problem if the commitment was shared with others, by forming a social network around the older person.
So how does BuddyHub work?
BuddyHub creates social networks of like-minded new friends for older people, we call these ‘Friendship Wheels’. We match you to the Friendship Wheel of a ‘Senior’ living close to you, each wheel has three Buddies who share visiting and get to know each other.
How can someone get involved?
We’ve just launched our pilot and we’re looking for Buddies living in Islington!
Step 1: Sign Up – give us your name, email and postcode (we’ll keep it private).
Step 2: If you live around a 15 minute walk from a Senior we’ll send you an email with information on how to create your profile.
Step 3: If you and your potential Senior have interests that match we’ll take you through the process to join their Friendship Wheel.
What does the future hold for BuddyHub?
The pilot will help us to gain feedback and refine the service. I’d like to continue to offer Friendship Wheels and roll them out further across London, as well as looking at supporting specific groups, such as pensioners in poverty. I’ve spent a lot of time out in the community, meeting people and listening to what they are looking for, to understand what they want. The Friendship Wheel is just one idea, and I’m looking to try and broaden what we do so we can offer a range of services to someone that comes to us, according to what they are looking for in their life.
How have you used the Impact Hub network on your journey?
I’ve had a lot of support through the community, knowing that people like what you do and want you to succeed is so helpful, particularly when you’re having a tough day and you’re really struggling. The generosity of members has also been really important. People have been really good at saying ‘Oh, you should meet with …’, or ‘You should explore…’, and I’ve been really open to that. I find the serendipity of just meeting people is unbelievable.
Thank you for your time, Catherine!
Find out more about Buddyhub here.
Learn more about who is part of the Impact Hub Westminster community by visiting our ‘Meet our Members’ page.
Interview in March 2016 by Felicity Cremin, Communications Manager at Impact Hub Westminster.