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29 May 2018

Suzy Barber of Age UK Camden discusses the lifeline provided to local older people by the charity’s two Day Centres, and how a recent volunteering day by BHA staff was a boost for everyone.

I’ve been working at Age UK Camden since August 2016 and my role is Community Partnerships and Fundraising Officer.

Part of that is organising corporate volunteering opportunities, usually at one of our two Day Centres: Great Croft in King’s Cross or Henderson Court in Hampstead. Employees get the chance to meet some of the members, enjoy an activity together and chat over a bit of lunch. Afterwards the members will often talk about the visit for weeks, as many have little or no family, and the Centre is the only place they go to other than home.

Our services include: befriending (for housebound older people with no friends or family); one-to-one information and advice (if a client gets an eviction notice or a horrible letter from the bank etc., we will help them resolve it) and care navigation (for those who get a serious medical diagnosis we will help them get to appointments and support them emotionally).

Tackling isolation through technology is a vital part of our work. We run digital sessions that show older people how to go online and access a wealth of information that the rest of us take for granted. Similarly, doing internet shopping on behalf of housebound older people with no internet skills is something really tangible we can do to make a difference to people’s lives. Just running the two Day Centres is a vital service to the majority of people we help, who have little or no family.

The visit from employees from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) came about via BHA staff member Vanessa Safo, who volunteers for our dementia befriending service in her spare time. Vanessa’s visits to her befriendee helps them to enjoy life; know about services and stay independent. Vanessa recommended us for the Racing Together Community Day and that evolved into Stu, Vanessa, James and Nick coming to our Hampstead day centre, Henderson Court earlier this month to work on the garden.

We have a small but lovely garden at the front of our Centre, which members can walk through, sit in and just enjoy. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone to maintain it so we grab help when we can. One of our Trustees, the very hard-working and lovely Marika Freris, helped oversee the morning, as well as buying plants with the £75 donation from the BHA.

The foursome worked very hard and made a real impact in the few hours they were there. I think they enjoyed it, too, and said they’d like to come back for their next community day in October. Yes please!

Volunteering helps to strengthen society, by bringing people together and sharing knowledge and abilities. Charities get support; service users get to meet new people and corporate employees get to do things they may not ordinarily do. We think that this helps them develop communication skills, empathy, patience and confidence, which helps productivity at work. It’s a win, win, win.

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