Contact the Elderly is a national charity aiming to combat loneliness and social isolation by arranging volunteer-led monthly afternoon tea parties, gatherings and outings. Established over 50 years ago the charity has grown steadily and across the UK there are now 830 volunteer-led friendship groups.
Each group consists of about 6 to 8 older ‘guests, who are collected from their homes by a volunteer driver and taken to the host’s home or community venue one Sunday afternoon a month. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same so that over time acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.
Loneliness across all age groups is an increasing problem and research has shown that it is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, significantly impacting on heart disease, depression and dementia. There are 2.2 million people aged over 75 living alone in the UK, a number increasing annually and an estimated 1.2 million chronically lonely older people. For many, TV is their main source of company.
Tracy Parr, the charity’s Support Officer for the Midlands, says that there is a Tea Party Group in Grantham but currently ‘guest’ numbers are very low. “We are looking for more older people who live alone and have very limited social contact to come and enjoy a tea party with us. Our volunteer drivers will collect guests from their homes and stay with them at the tea parties and drive them safely home at the end.”
Tracy is also asking people to refer ‘guests’ who they feel might benefit from joining the group. Contact the Elderly offers a vital lifeline of friendship to over 75’s who live alone, often with sight and hearing problems, and who are at risk of becoming isolated as their mobility decreases. Guest referrals can be received from relatives, friends and neighbours, as well as from other charities and organisations working with the elderly.
The charity’s model is based on a simple yet very effective concept; free, once a month Sunday tea parties for small groups of older people bringing all ages together, developing fulfilling friendships and giving everyone something to look forward to.