Connor Diocese’s Ageability Committee has hosted a very successful seminar focused on developing a club for older people.
The seminar, which took place over two days in Glenavy Parish Hall, follows the publication a year ago of the committee’s report and also a conference held on the subject ‘How can the Church meet the needs of older people.’
Speakers on the first day of the seminar on October 22 were Captain Canon Michael Reeder of the Church Army. Captain Reeder has worked with older people for a number of years and is now the Chaplain at St Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield. Previously he was on the staff of Christ Church, Fulwood, where he oversaw the “Friday Club” which caters for up to 90 older people each week.
Mrs Paddi Totten, Glenavy Parish, is a commissioned minister and member of the General Synod. She attended a Church Army training course on working with older people in club situations and has used this training to set up and run ” The Open door” for older members of Glenavy Parish.
During the first seminar, which attracted some 35 people with an interest in developing a club for older people within their own parishes, participants had the opportunity to form small discussion groups and also to ask questions of the speakers.
The following morning participants returned to Glenavy to join helpers at the parish’s ‘Open Door Club’ set up and organise members’ activities, see the club in action and gain an insight into the ‘feel’ of the club.
The activities on offer ranged from basket making, jigsaws, dominoes, reminiscence sessions, bowls, guest speakers, a lending library, and good old fashioned tea and a chat. The club was established two and a half years ago and attracts 60-70 members each month.
Mrs Totten, who founded the club after seeing how similar groups were run by the Church Army, said: “We have used an activity, relationship based model rather than having people just sitting listening all the time and not saying anything.”
As well as getting the parishes older members out to meet each other, the club also links with the pastoral care team. If a regular member fails to show someone will visit their home and ensure they are well.
The Open Door Club was funded by the Select Vestry, and members make voluntary donations each month. This helps cover the costs of the activities and food.
The parish hall benefits from a large storeroom, which Mrs Totten said is vital for storing the club’s equipment such as bowls, books and coffee tables, and also the sofas and easy chairs which give it such a homely feel.
Victor Douglas from Jordanstown Parish attended the seminar. He helps run Jordanstown’s Tuesday Club which started 12 years ago with 22 members and now has 75. “It’s good to come and see how other places operate,” he said.
Sadie Minford is 82 and lives close to the international airport. Each month she picks up two friends in her car and drives to the Open Door Club. Her friend Gwen Birch said: “I wouldn’t be able to come if it wasn’t for Sadie, and I really do look forward to it. I enjoy the talks and activities like card making. I also just enjoy sitting here. You always know someone to have a wee chat with.”
Peggy McDowell is another regular. “This club is a very friendly social gathering, but there is more to it than just drinking tea,” she said. “I enjoy the talks and seeing the films, that kind of thing. We normally have a nice lunch and head home after that.”
Jeffrey Johnston, secretary of Connor Ageability Committee, said: “The big thing is these clubs provide the opportunity to get together for a chat as well as take part in games and other activities.”