On Sunday, between team Stand we hosted TWO Contact the Elderly tea parties. I (together with my boyfriend and his Nan) hosted one in Essex and Nyree hosted the group she set up in Peterborough – both were afternoons filled with tea, cake and most-importantly – laughter. For me it was my first ever time hosting (Nyree is a seasoned regular!), so it was so great to experience the magic of one of Contact’s parties first hand.
Contact the Elderly is a national charity that works to combat loneliness and isolation of older people aged 75 and over who live alone. The tea party groups meet once a month, giving older guests a regular social activity to look forward to.
Having worked with Contact the Elderly in a PR capacity with Stand for a number of years, I have heard many stories of how Contact’s parties have changed the lives of those that attend. Just yesterday, one guest told me that before the tea parties she used to wish she could go out with a sign around her neck that said “please somebody just talk to me”, as she told me how she started to feel lonely as her friends started to pass away with old age.
I was super close to my Nana before she passed away in 2011, and so when I started working with Contact and hearing more and more stories such as this – coming from people just like my Nana – I knew I had to do my bit.
How the tea parties work:
Once a month, normally on a Sunday afternoon, each older guest is collected from their home by a volunteer driver, and taken to a volunteer host’s home, where they join a small group for tea, talk and companionship. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the charity’s drivers and older guests remain the same. This means that over the months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.
How to volunteer:
If you feel like you would like to get involved and volunteer your time to Contact the Elderly – there are three main ways, you can help. There are hundreds of volunteer run tea party groups up and down the UK, each of them is run by members of the local community. You can check to see if there is on in your area here.
Become a host – a commitment of one or two Sunday afternoons a year
Hosts provide a warm welcome and a simple afternoon tea lasting between two and three hours for six to eight older guests and three or four drivers. Often hosts involve family and friends and two or three generations join in. The only requirements are that your home has step-free access and a downstairs loo.
Become a driver – a monthly commitment
Drivers collect the same older guest/s each month and take them to a different local host’s home where they all enjoy an afternoon tea party. There are usually three to five drivers in a group and there are sometimes also one or two reserve drivers to cover for holidays and emergencies.
Coordinate a group – monthly commitment
Coordinators ensure everything runs smoothly each month. Coordinators are also often volunteer drivers too. Coordinators organise the monthly group outings by liaising with the hosts and the drivers so that everyone is clear about the time, date and place. After the drivers have been called by the coordinator, they in turn contact their older guest/s.
Refer a guest
If you know someone that you feel would benefit from attending one of Contact the Elderly’s tea parties, please do spread the word. Contact has some great fliers on its website you can print off here: http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/i-know-someone-who-would-benefit