A fresh perspective

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

SOMETIMES it takes someone from outside to make you take stock of some of the things you take for granted.

Last week Ageing Well Torbay had a visit from a representative of another programme in the North of England who was looking at how we work with our communities to reduce loneliness and isolation in the over 50’s.

It gave us the chance to showcase our work, to take a step back and boast about the things we do best and dwell on just how long that list is.

But more importantly, it gave us the chance to realise that AWT is often just the starting point for something that grows, splits off and continues without any ongoing help from us.

It might start in the smallest of ways, perhaps with a conversation between one of the wellbeing coordinators and one of our community builders about someone who is looking to do something they used to enjoy doing.

It can be anything from model railways to listening to music from the sixties, from playing whist to going to the theatre, from yoga to dance, from coffee mornings to lunches, there is something for everyone in the Bay.

And if there isn’t, then our community builders who know every nook and cranny of the areas they represent, set about creating it and once done 99 times out of a 100 people come.

We have done it many, many times all across the Bay and sometimes all it takes is a little time, sometimes merely the spark or the support and sometimes the smallest of amounts of money.

But once up and running and successful, we can step back and watch the community step in and see to it that it continues.

Last week we were able to share and celebrate our accomplishments large and small and put centre stage the people who have helped make them and continue to make them the success that they are.

We were given a chance to discuss with those people what they get out of it, and ask they got involved in the first place, and the answers were sometimes surprising because most of the time it wasn’t planned, it was mostly by serendipity.

We brought the right people together at the right time for the right reasons and created something wonderful not just for them, but for the communities in which they live.

Take the enormously successful Ageing Well Festival which returns this year to the Riviera Centre in Torquay on October 24th for the sixth annual event – created by older people for older people.

We expect more than 2,000 people to come through the doors, but the success or otherwise is down to fewer than ten unpaid people who have worked on it year in year out since its inception five years ago.

Ageing Well primed the pump, but it is the community that has come together that continues to create the festival, a type of success that is recreated and repeated on varying scales in Brixham, Paignton and Torquay most days of the week.

It might be the wonderful ongoing work that goes on at the Shed in Chelston where craftspeople come together to pursue lifelong hobbies and skills or learn new ones.

It might be the ninja knitters of the Torbay Yarnbombers who meet to come up with increasingly creative ways of putting smiles on people’s faces whilst providing company for those who attend one of the sessions.

It might be groups that come together to create garden areas in Torquay or tend allotments in Brixham or maintain the play area in Paignton; they are all from the community working on behalf of the community.

The same goes for the sowers, the skittle players and the mosaic makers, the flashmobbers and the Riviera Radio DJ’s who will be joining the FM airwaves in the next few weeks.

The Torbay Over 50’s Assembly (TOFA) is made up of people who didn’t know they were looking for ways of giving back, and the last thing they would call themselves are volunteers.

But they are making a difference, and they are doing it for free if you don’t count the satisfaction and rewards associated with doing something for your friends and neighbours.

It is good to take stock from time to time and to reflect on what we can achieve by having a handful of people in the community poised to make a difference. That is what our community builders do, and they can’t do it without you.