Ac­tion group’s suc­cess at fight­ing lone­li­ness

Ger­rards Cross or­gan­i­sa­tion is con­tin­u­ing to grow in pop­u­lar­ity

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

Its suc­cess is some­thing the chair­man of the Chal­font and Ger­rards Cross Vil­lage Older Per­sons Ac­tion Group (VOPAG), Tony Of­ford, has put down to good lo­cal public­ity.

But Mr Of­ford doesn’t want the growth to stop there and is hope­ful this branch of VOPAG will keep on ex­pand­ing in­def­i­nitely.

“Peo­ple don’t know about it, but now we get public­ity in the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket and the lo­cal doc­tors prac­tice,” he said.

Mr Of­ford added: “It’s ex­pand­ing and it’s sim­ply be­cause of the ad­di­tional public­ity. This last meet­ing was well over 60 [visi­tors], down to the public­ity.”

“It’s been ex­pand­ing for the last two or three months.”

83-year-old Mr Of­ford has been in his cur­rent role for around two months, hav­ing joined about 18 months ago.

Ac­cord­ing to him the im­por­tance of the group can­not be over­es­ti­mated.

“There’s noth­ing here for the el­derly peo­ple,” he said. “What we’re try­ing to do is give them a plea­sure sit­u­a­tion or an in­ter­est sit­u­a­tion on a to­gether ba­sis.”

He added: “Peo­ple can ben­e­fit from this sort of thing. It’s like a club.”

Gi­u­lia John­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive at Age UK Buck­ing­hamshire, said that so­cial groups like th­ese were ex­tremely im­por­tant things to have for the el­derly in their area.

“They are very good things to have,” she said. “Lo­cal groups such as this pro­vide an es­sen­tial func­tion in com­bat­ting lone­li­ness and so­cial iso­la­tion in older peo­ple, and as such are ex­tremely im­por­tant in their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.”

Yvonne Martin, cor­po­rate trust and fundrais­ing man­ager at Friends of the El­derly, said: “Any kind of so­cial groups or gath­er­ing is vi­tal, be­cause we’re so­cial crea­tures.

“To be with­out any con­tact for a long pe­riod of time would be a pretty ter­ri­fy­ing thing. It’s one of the big­gest fears and one of the big­gest pun­ish­ments, like in soli­tary con­fine­ment.”

She added: “So­cial groups are vi­tal for peo­ples’ well­be­ing.”

VOPAG meet at the Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, Gravel Hill, in Chal­font St Peter. They have planned a spe­cial Christ­mas event on De­cem­ber 15. Con­tact Mr Of­ford on 01753 886 706 for more in­for­ma­tion.

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