Words by Smiley Team
As the UK exited its third lockdown, elderly people’s charity Independent Age noticed that isolation was persisting amongst over 50s. Many were reluctant to go outside and socialise after being cooped up indoors for so many months on end.
To help such people fully recover, the charity organised a festival that would help them rebuild their social lives and enjoy being outdoors again.
Independent Age organiser Julie Bennett tells Smiley News: “We decided to organise activities that would get them moving and motivated because we know that's vital to a good quality of life; if you’re active, you feel fitter, healthier and happier.”
With this in mind, the charity reached out to organisations across Essex, the region in which they are based, to organise activities aimed at people over 50. With the help of generous donations from Colchester Council and the Coop, they arranged an incredible assortment of activities.
When the festival date finally arrived, they were astonished by the turnout.
“We had expected around 100 people to turn up. Instead, about 250 people joined!” Julie exclaims.
Dancing, playing football, walking, chatting over tea and getting advice from other local charities, the attendees could choose from a wealth of stalls and workshops.
Julianna, who attended the event with her husband, Mic, says: “I loved the fair and all the activities, especially the dancing. It’s given me confidence to come out and speak to people.”
Others had similar experiences. While soaking up the positive energy in the dance class, Julie spotted a woman dancing alone near the studio entrance.
“She was dancing on the spot and didn’t look quite ready to go inside,” Julie explains.
So she approached the woman and gently asked her if she would like to join in with the class. Shyly, she accepted and Julie describes: “The minute she walked through the door, she started to join in with the line dances and stroll exercises. The beam on her face was just brilliant.”
The charity hopes this initial festival will have motivated attendees to continue activities on a regular basis. Many signed up for weekly classes, including the individual who Julie encouraged into the dance session, which is exactly the long-term result they had wished for.
“All she needed was that little nudge to get through the door. And that's what the service we have Independent Age is all about,” Julie explains. “We're just giving people a little nudge in the right direction which can be life-changing. People shouldn’t depend on us forever. Once they’re ready, they won’t need us anymore.”
DONATE: To help people over 65 lead a healthy and happy life into old age, donate to Independent Age.
SUPPORT: Have fun while fundraising to support people tackle loneliness and access health support. Join an event organised by Independent Age.