How Contact the Elderly’s monthly tea parties help to bring people together and combat loneliness
Contact the Elderly is dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people. The charity, supported by a nationwide network of volunteers, organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for people aged 75 and over who live alone. The events prove incredibly popular, providing attendees with a sense of community, belonging and purpose.
We caught up with Contact the Elderly’s Communications Manager, James Yelland, to find out more.
What you do must be rewarding
We get such wonderful stories from the elderly guests. Some say they felt like they were on their way out of life or drowning or fading out, as it were. And then they come out with these testimonies saying how we dragged them back into life. It’s amazing when you hear that.
A lot of our older guests – through no one’s fault – have ended up in situations where they’re lonely or isolated. The number of volunteers we have, plus the research we’ve done, suggests people are aware of older people in their communities and they do see them and are concerned.
The difficulty is that people might not know what to do, or they’re very British and don’t want to assume anything. We encourage people to keep an eye out for people and invite them to our tea parties. Once a month it’s an opportunity for those elderly people to make new friends with other guests or volunteers.
Is there evidence that a community can enrich lives?
From our tea parties, many of our guests have reported that their health, wellbeing and general outlook have improved. That’s from re-engaging with society, other people and having friendships and relationships. Maybe it’s the boost of the social occasion, and a lot say it’s from knowing it’s coming up and having something to look forward to.
Do friendships blossom at the tea parties?
It is something that happens organically with a lot of our guests and volunteers. They get to know them well and become trusted friends. Within the tea party scenario, older guests spend time with other older guests, and then they get to know volunteers. It’s a lovely example of intergenerational friendship. Some become fast friends.
It’s incredible how many places have popped up nationwide
They are everywhere! Last year, the charity became 51 years old. It all started when a chap called Trevor Lyttleton came up with an idea (in 1965) of having a tea party social group for older people who are alone. Over the past few years it’s really taken off. We now have just under 10,000 volunteers across the UK and just over 700 tea parties, and that caters for about 5,500 older people.
For more information, visit contact-the-elderly.org.uk