A FESTIVAL for older people is coming to the city in the first week of October.

Brightlife, a pioneering project led by older people across Cheshire West and Chester, is launching a week-long festival of events for older people by screening a short film produced in association with Oscar-winning studio.

Combining Aardman Animations’ familiar animal characters with the real voices of older people who have experienced and overcome social isolation, the film aims to reassure people they are not alone and there are things they can do to help them be less lonely.

Nationally, over a million older people say they are always or often feel lonely.

Two-fifths say the television is their main form of company. With the numbers of older people aged 65 or over in the UK predicted to rise by nearly 50 per cent in the next 20 years, loneliness is an urgent problem.

The Brightlife festival will promote the work Brightlife does to reduce loneliness and social isolation, whilst bringing generations together through a range of social activities and celebration events.

These include a chance for older people to ‘buddy up’ with local drivers for a night of entertainment at the circus courtesy of Circus Starr, a drop-in soup lunch supplied by Casserole Club made with vegetables donated from local allotments, and a chance to take part in the parade at Chester Pride to show support for the older LGBT community.

Head of Brightlife Adam Shaw said: “Social isolation is extremely harmful to our health. Lack of social connections can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, putting people at risk of premature death. 

“With 36 per cent of residents over 65 living alone in the borough, it’s vitally important we develop innovative and engaging support networks that will help create a better life for older people by giving them a sense of purpose and fulfilment.”

Brightlife volunteer Margaret Yorke, 76, agreed. 

She said: “Getting involved in Brightlife has given me something to look forward to … it helps occupy my days and keeps my mind busy. 

“I’m making new friends all the time and enjoying feeling part of something where my ideas are not just welcomed but valued.”

The Brightlife Festival will launch on National Older People’s Day on October 1, with an exclusive premiere of the Aardman Animations film at Chester Town Hall.

Heather Wright, executive producer at Aardman said: “Hearing the voices of older people talking about loneliness, helped us to understand just how easy it is for people to become lonely.

“They gave us real stories that touched our hearts. Our job was to bring them to life in a memorable way whilst addressing a serious issue.”