Volunteers bring people together
You’re never too old to make a real difference to your community
●● IN the second part of a series looking at what it’s like to grow older in Manchester, the role of community groups is examined. NEW Moston resident Bren Fawcett, 62, has been volunteering with community group NEPHRA for more than a decade – providing older people with a host of social activities and support.
NEPHRA, whose name originates from the initials of some of the streets it represents, grew out of community activity to create a lifeline for older people.
Bren said: “It all began 12 years ago.
“I had just moved to New Moston and a neighbour knocked on my door and asked if I’d like to help clear some derelict land.
“After coming together as a community we decided to see what else we could do to help the neighbourhood.
“At that first meeting the majority of people who turned up were older residents – I didn’t know at the time but New Moston has one of the highest proportion of older people in the city – and overwhelmingly they were asking for more things to do locally.
“So that’s what we set out to help with.
“Since then NEPHRA has gone from strength to strength and has brought countless older residents together to help tackle loneliness and isolation – which is one of the most serious problems older people face.
“NEPHRA’s luncheon club now feeds more than 50 people a week with fruit and veg grown by our volunteers on our allotment.
“It’s a great social occasion and has led to many strong friendships – meaning people help each other out where they can.
“Equally important is our befriending programme where we visit residents who struggle to get out and about.
“Simply dropping by to enjoy a cuppa, and maybe some cake, can make a real difference to someone on their own.
“Often after that we find that the older residents are well enough to come and enjoy some of our other activities, like the Sunday film club.
“It’s not all sitting about though, we also run a popular IT course helping the less technically-savvy learn how to use iPads and research things like family history.
“We run a choir, craft sessions and even German lessons – there’s something for everyone.
“Our knitting and natter sessions have also proved popular and have even brought in youngsters keen to learn skills from the older generation.
“We are all living longer and I think groups like ours prove that you’re never too old to enjoy yourself.
“Yes, some people need support getting out – but that’s not to say they don’t want to have fun.
“Our group is run by volunteers, the eldest of whom are in their 90s, which goes to show you can make a difference and be part of the local community in Manchester, no matter what your age.
“I’d urge more people to do the same across our city and work towards making it even more agefriendly.”
●● Moston Lane