Chaps chat their way out of lone­li­ness

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

OLD AGE can be iso­lat­ing and hav­ing no­body to talk to can heighten that lone­li­ness, par­tic­u­larly where be­reave­ment and ill-health are also fac­tors. And the prob­lem can be more acute among men, who are of­ten un­com­fort­able about show­ing their feel­ings.

But Jewish Care’s men-only con­ver­sa­tion groups are turn­ing the tide.

Chaps That Chat came about with the help of Sid Green, an oc­to­gene­r­ian vol­un­teer at the char­ity’s Sinclair House in Red­bridge. His group meets for dis­cus­sions, so­cial­is­ing and out­ings.

Mr Green made it his mis­sion to drum up in­ter­est, phon­ing everyone he knew, even stop­ping peo­ple in the street. Such has been the de­mand that a sec­ond Red­bridge group is open­ing.

“Most of them were strangers be­fore they met here,” Mr Green said. “Some of them have be­come so friendly that they meet up out­side of the group”.

Other Red­bridge reg­u­lars in­clude Ron Wein­berg, who said: “I used to joke about how much my wife talked. I never knew how much I’d miss it.

“I love it. I go ev­ery month. Oth­er­wise you’re all alone. I en­joy de­bat­ing about any sub­ject. It’s not too se­ri­ous and it’s nice in­ter­act­ing with the other men.

“It’s a good laugh and I en­joy the friendly ban­ter.”

Al­though all par­tic­i­pants are re­tired, the age range is wide — from mid-60s to early 90s. The suc­cess of Red­bridge has spawned the roll-out of groups in Har­low, Gold­ers Green and Wood­side Park.

Si­mon Sack­man is the fa­cil­i­ta­tor at the Selig Court group in Gold­ers Green, which meets on the first Tuesday of the month.

The re­tired solic­i­tor said mem­bers “have tea and cake and talk about any­thing from pol­i­tics, sport, cur­rent af­fairs and hol­i­days. They share sto­ries from their lives and get to know each other. This is where friend­ships be­gin.”

Ali­son Smar­dina, Jewish Care’s sup­port­ive com­mu­ni­ties of­fi­cer, said: “It’s just a few hours per month but it’s a life­line to the peo­ple who come.” The phone call invit­ing them to at­tend may “be the only time the phone rings”.

For more in­for­ma­tion, email as­mar­dina@jcare.org

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