By David Gledhill, Marketing and Communications Lead
We love a success story here at Ageing Well Torbay, and luckily we have a lot of them to tell.
We do not claim the Midas touch, and we cannot say that everything we handle turns to gold, but when it does, it puts smiles on faces all round.
Over the four years we have been going, we have learned a lot about the needs of the over 50’s, but that does not mean we haven’t had a few surprises along the way.
What makes one event in one area work when exactly the same format fails in another? The answer is, in most cases, relatively straight forward – the people. You can’t make them get on, and you can’t make them like each other.
By the same token what to one person is a very friendly welcoming group to another, it can appear to be a closed shop with no warmth and no future friendships. You don’t know until you try.
But when it does work, then it flies, and our community builders are able to step away and leave the participants to organise themselves – to continue to grow, to become closer and to cement and nurture friendships.
One such group started in a very small way at the Me and Mrs Jones Café in Ilsham Road, Wellswood, Torquay, round a community table – allocated to allow people to chat to each other in an informal way over a cup of coffee.
It grew into a weekly gathering and before long had outgrown the small friendly café and so moved into the Kents Pub just a few yards up the road.
They are now so successful, they don’t need their community builder anymore, though Marianne Parker does pop in to keep them abreast of other Ageing Well events happening across the bay.
In Marianne’s words: “They have evolved into a fantastic bunch of lovely people who all look after each other. They all have everyone’s phone numbers, they give each other lifts to other Ageing Well events, call each other when they have been missed, take flowers and cards to those who are not well.”
“They also celebrate their birthdays with cake and cards together, organise their own trips to the Princess Theatre, go and visit former members of the group who have moved to other parts of the country together, have lunch together and more.”
“Amazing. They didn’t even know each other three years ago!”
But not even they know why their gathering clicked and became so successful and enduring, to the point whereby they struggle to welcome new people, for fear of having to move on again and potentially become too big.
Bill Scrimshaw has been attending more or less since the beginning when he went along with his late wife and didn’t stop to consider not going when his wife died: “They are the sort of people that are concerned about you, it is just nice to be a part of it,” said the 75-year-old.
Bill retired to the bay four years ago having retired from his furniture shop in the Midlands and soon after got involved with the group: “They just make you feel welcome, I really enjoy meeting up with them all.”
It is a similar story for Jean Bye who at the age of 86, two years ago, moved south from Dewsbury in Yorkshire to be near her daughter. She didn’t know another soul: “This has been lifeline or me, I love coming here, and am here every Tuesday,” she said.
She also attends other Ageing Well Torbay events, such as the craft class in St Marychurch, but the group at the Kents is still the highlight of the week.
And it is the same for Pat Healey who has been part of the group for around two years, joining a few months after her husband died: “I think it is the welcome that you always get here, everyone looks out for each other,” she explained.
So much so, that when she told some of the others, she was going to see the Glenn Miller Orchestra at the Princess Theatre in Torquay, she was promptly joined by eight others.
And that is not unusual, as the group continues to meet, it finds new ways of socialising away from the coffee morning and away from the Kents and if there is an issue or a problem for any one individual, the others are there for them.
Nor does it stop there, some even went as far as Sussex recently to meet one friend who was a regular at the coffee morning two years ago, before moving away.
Thankfully the group is not unique, there are others that meet in pubs, cafes and halls in Paignton, Torquay and Brixham and if you want to find one near you contact us at: email@example.com or ring us on 01803 212638.