I am coming to the end of my volunteering challenge and there are still hundreds of volunteering opportunities around Tameside. I started a year ago with a tea brewing world record attempt for Tameside 4 Good so I thought, as I started with tea, I will end with lunch. I went to volunteer for Age UK Tameside where they provide day support for older people at their independent living centre on Katherine Street. They have lots of different activities throughout the week and on Saturdays. Volunteers and staff support those who attend. They may need a little extra support if they have mobility difficulties or dementia. I volunteered on a Friday in the morning and over lunch. When I arrived, Barbara, who has been a volunteer at the centre for 10 years, was making sure everyone had a cup of tea. After I had mine she kindly gave me a tour. There is a main area with tables for lunch where people were arriving and having a cup of tea. There was a lounge for relaxing with a reminiscence room in one corner. It was decorated like a traditional living room with armchairs, lamps and tables. It is used for sessions to help people reminisce and even create their own life stories. Across the main room is an activities room that holds different groups for arts and crafts, snooker, armchair exercises and plenty more. Having a separate lounge means that people don’t have to join in with the activities if they don’t want to especially if something doesn’t appeal to them.
People seemed really at home at the centre and some went to the lounge to read or to chat. It is dementia friendly with its signs and lilac and yellow decor. Barbara introduced me to two people who had come to the centre for the first time. I sat with them and the new people they had met and had a chat. Like the Stroke Association I visited at Loxley House there was plenty of banter and lots of laughter. I got a little my way as people teased me for writing for the local paper. What would I write about them? I promised it would be friendly.
Sitting and talking is a wonderful part of volunteering and something I have often missed out on because I have been to so many different places in a short time. It meant I wasn’t able to build long-term relationships with others by seeing them every week.
It was time for the first activity, which was a holistic armchair exercise session with Indu a Hindu Priestess. It sounded amazing and it was. The room was full of people and some of those that I had talked to over tea described this as one of their favourite sessions. Indu was extremely friendly and welcoming. We started with arm stretches as Indu encouraged us to “wave to the worms” and “wave to the birds” in order to reach low and high. This had an amazing effect because it engaged the group and you didn’t realise how long you were moving so it made it much easier and more interesting. I didn’t imagine you could do much in an armchair but I was proven wrong. We moved every part of our bodies and even those with limited vision, arm or leg problems happily joined in. It really made me smile particularly with the cheeky chatter. We ended the session with some meditation and how the group didn’t all fall asleep I will never know but they left relaxed to go for lunch.
I chatted to Indu and she explained how much joy she gets from volunteering. She helps her neighbour and at the Shree Bharatiya Mandal, Indian Association Tameside, based on Union Street in Ashton with their luncheon club (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10.30am-2pm) and she kindly invited me to attend. It was time now for my lunch date with the people from Age UK Tameside. I sat on a table with two ladies and a man. We chatted about history for a while and one of the ladies was delighted and said “It nice to be able to talk about history with someone.” She explained that her dad had been interested in history but she hadn’t found many women who were interested. The gentleman on the table explained he had once supported those with a learning disability and found it strange that now he was in a wheelchair. They were lovely people to spend time with.
After lunch the group went into the lounge for a quiz. The activity room was being used for a fall prevention group with people referred from the community. I said goodbye. As I left I smiled at the joy of meeting and connecting with people you wouldn’t meet in any other way if it weren’t for volunteering. For more information on volunteering and services for people aged 55 and over visit www.ageuk.org.uk/tameside