Hello and welcome aboard the BuddyHub blog. Let me start by telling you what we’re all about. BuddyHub is a Social Enterprise set up in 2014 and we’re just moving from the concept stage to the doing it stage. Here’s our big idea: BuddyHub is an ultra-local online matching service that helps lonely and isolated older people reconnect to their communities. An older person will be at the Hub of their own ‘Friendship Wheel’ and around three Buddies will be matched to them based on profiles of interests, skills, hopes and dreams. The Buddies in each ‘Friendship Wheel’ will be able to coordinate visiting and get to know each other in a chat area, over the phone or in person: it’ll be a great way to get to know new people and connect up communities. BuddyHub doesn’t rely on older people being digitally literate as people can be referred onto the website. We’re using technology to break down barriers inherent in traditional befriending by bringing the concept of micro-volunteering to face to face contact.
This blog is going to chart the ups and downs of getting a start- up off the ground: one which is trying to solve one of the most pressing social issues of our time in a way that’s different to anything that’s been tried before. We’re borrowing a little bit from lots of different things that have been used elsewhere but we’re mixing them together in a way that is entirely new. Online dating, for example, revolutionised the way singletons got together and helped lonely hearts find each other. Can online matching successfully help older people who would like to reconnect to their communities do that? I really hope so because the numbers who are affected by this issue are huge and will only get bigger. A recent Age UK survey revealed that over 1.1 million people aged 65 and over feels lonely. Half of younger people aged 25-44 also admitted that they have worried about being alone in later life. BuddyHub will tackle both the loneliness that exists today and the fear of loneliness tomorrow.
Is BuddyHub the right solution?
I’m really hoping that the ideas behind BuddyHub will work and that it will vastly improve the quality of life and health of a significant number of older people who find themselves without the amount of companionship and friendship in their lives that they desire. In fact its truer to say I’m desperately hoping BuddyHub will work. I keep hearing that it’s passion that drives Social Entrepreneurs on. Actually I think the fuel in the tank of this Social Entrepreneur is more like anger and a sense of what the hell happened to us as a society that we allow so many people to become marginalised by loneliness and isolation. Whenever I’m in one of the down moments of being a start-up Founder I remember all those people who have no one: I always wish I could go faster to offer them a way out of the situation they find themselves in today.
Well of course that’s if what I’m offering is actually what older people want, or enough of them to build a sustainable business from anyhow. Everyone I’ve talked to about BuddyHub universally loves the idea of what I’m trying to do (not just my friends – honest) but what I need to know is that older people want BuddyHub. This week there will be some rubber hitting the road on that front via a quiz event I’m running at an Age UK centre in the inner London Borough of Islington where I live. The deal is I provide the tea, cakes, entertainment and prizes and the older people who attend fill out a survey and a personal profile during the quiz. No idea how this event will go and how many people will turn up: it’s been advertised in various places with a very pretty poster. I can only hope I don’t end up with a stockpile of cupcakes, biscuits and sweets. The latter are for the prizes and if no one shows up or the feedback is negative then it’ll be hard to resist soothing myself with an extended sugar high as I hit one of those start-up downs. Fingers crossed and I’ll let you know what happens….