A few weeks ago Penny and I were very kindly invited to a tea party on behalf of Contact the Elderly. Contact the Elderly is a UK-wide charity that has been making an immeasurable difference to the lives of older people for more than 50 years. It has been operational in Scotland for 46 years, with the first group being established in Glasgow in 1971. Currently, there are almost 900 guests supported by a network of around 1300 volunteers from the Borders to the Highlands.
On a Sunday afternoon, a volunteer host’s a tea party in their home for a group of between six and eight people, aged 75 and over, who live alone. A volunteer driver also collects people and accompanies them to the party. You might be thinking, “What good does a tea party do anyone?” Well, quite a lot actually. Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people. It offers them a regular and vital friendship link every month for older guests who have little or no contact with family or friends. The tea parties help develop fulfilling friendships and support networks and give everyone involved something to look forward to each month. Recent research by Contact the Elderly highlighted that 95% of guests say the parties give them something to look forward to and 77% feel happier because of the parties.
As I mentioned, Penny and I were invited to a tea party held by one of the Contact the Elderly’s friendly and enthusiastic volunteers. After a warm welcome, we sat around a table sipping tea and nibbling cakes and sandwiches. Penny was on her best behaviour but did get a little fidgety towards the end, she did, however, love the Scottie Dog shaped shortbread biscuits that were laid out! The ladies spoke about their hobbies, reminisced about their childhood and even discussed how some were evacuated during the war. It was truly fascinating. One lady, Bunty, had just celebrated her 100th birthday; I could have listened to her stories for hours. I had a wonderful time, however, I did get a little choked up. Being in their presence reminded me of how bubbly and funny my Nan used to be before her dementia. I miss her stories terribly, but I am incredibly lucky that I still have her in my life. I honestly love her to bits and it made me sad to think of these women spending the majority of their time alone. This is how important Contact the Elderly is to these women and hundreds across the UK.
If you’d like to support the work of this wonderful service you can find out how to make a donation or even volunteer by visiting their website here. If you are an older person who would like to try a tea party, or if you know someone who would benefit from coming along, you can find more information here or call their freephone number – 0800716543.