AN Oldham entrepreneur has been crowned winner of the Innovation for Ageing competition as part of a project which aims to ease the growing problem of vulnerability in later life.

Alexandra Hoskyn’s brainchild supports cafes to designate a “Chatter and Natter” table where customers can sit if they are happy to talk to other people.

It aims to tackle loneliness by bringing people of all ages together from mums with their babies to the elderly and anybody in between.

Since the scheme was launched in April, 2017 it now has nearly 1,000 cafes signed up across the UK (including in both the Sainsbury’s and Costa Coffee franchises) as well as 25 in Gibraltar, two more in Australia and one in Florida.

The Chatty Cafe scheme beat off competition from over 75 submissions to win the Innovating for Ageing competition, which was created by the retirement specialist Just Group with support from the independent think tank the International Longevity Centre (ILC).

The competition’s objective is to identify and support the development of services that will address the challenges faced by ageing consumers at risk of vulnerability due to physical disability, illness, dementia or financial exclusion.

At the awards ceremony in London, hosted by comedian David Baddiel, the judges praised the Chatty Cafe scheme for its simplicity and effectiveness to select it above the other four finalists as winner of the competition.

Alex claims the £7,500 prize money to develop its offering and expand its reach as well as business support from FTSE 250 company Just Group.

Alex, said she was delighted that her initiative had been chosen as the winner and is already looking forward to using the money and advice to widen the reach of the scheme.

She said: “I am thrilled that in a field of such inspiring businesses, The Chatty Cafe Scheme was selected as the winner of Innovating for Ageing.

“The money and support will make a significant difference to us as we continue to encourage more and more venues to sign up.

“Many older adults are vulnerable because they are lonely but in actual fact there so many people in other age groups who feel the same way and we can all help each other. I want our Chatter and Natter tables to be the norm in cafe culture across the world, providing opportunities for people to get together.”

Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage, praised The Chatty Cafe and all five finalists, saying: “I’d like to congratulate the five finalists for their outstanding ideas on how to support older people to age well through inventive new services and products.

“Their schemes should make a real difference to people’s lives and help ensure we have a society that works for everyone, regardless of age.”

Stephen Lowe, Group Communications Director at Just Group, commented: “The Chatty Cafe Scheme is a worthy winner of the Innovating for Ageing competition and we look forward to seeing it grow and develop over the coming years.

“I was consistently impressed by Alex’s energy and commitment to developing a service that acts as a force for good in our society. The standard of competition was very high but The Chatty Café captured the judges’ votes with its simple but effective solution to loneliness.”