A KNUTSFORD social enterprise has been shortlisted for a national prize for helping to combat isolation and loneliness in elderly people.

Uniitee helps facilitate house-sharing for older people so they can support each other and enhance their independence in later life.

It has been selected by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, as a semi-finalist in the Ageing Well Challenge Prize.

Uniitee’s founder Bob Williams, of Buckingham Drive, Knutsford, is now preparing his pitch in a bid to become a finalist for the £50,000 prize.

He said: “It’s fantastic to be endorsed by Nesta. So many people worry about how they’re going to afford to look after themselves when they grow older, and loneliness is a huge concern.

“Uniitee provides another choice apart from a care home or living with your family when people feel less able to live alone.

“It provides an option of keeping independence, dignity and lifestyle, without becoming a ‘burden’ on your family.”

Bob will find out if Uniitee has become a finalist this month.

If so, £10,000 will be awarded to test new ideas over six months.

The winner will be selected in October for the finalist who demonstrates the biggest reduction of isolation and the biggest increase in mobility for vulnerable older people.

The idea behind Uniitee is that if an elderly person has a spare room they can rent it to someone in similar circumstances.

The pair can watch over each other, provide companionship and save each other money.

Ken Clemens, chief executive of Age UK Cheshire, said: “It offers a simple and practical solution to the increasing numbers of older people from across our communities who have real concerns around living alone in later life.”

More than 14 million people are aged over 60 in the UK, and of those 3.7 million live alone.

A total of 2.45 million elderly people have care needs, and 1.8 million pensioners live below the poverty line.

Bob set up Uniitee when he experienced the issues first-hand following the death of his mum Ruth from a stroke in September 2009.

It devastated his dad Brian, of Bexton Lane, who had been married to Ruth for 42 years.

Bob said: “Loneliness and isolation arise when living alone – I saw that first-hand when my mother died unexpectedly, leaving my dad to pick up the pieces of his life.

“It seemed like common sense to me that, in the same way younger people seek house mates to share the cost of bills, combat loneliness and generally look out for each other, we should be looking at the same options for older people.”