Ali Henderson finds out more about Silver Sunday
Ali Henderson meets Christabel Flight, founder of Silver Sunday, an annual day of fun and free activities for older people.
WHEN Westminster councillor Christabel Flight put on a tea dance for 1,000 elderly people at the Grosvenor Hotel 12 years ago, she had no idea that it would be the spark that led to the evolution of a special Sunday featuring thousands of events nationwide, including everything from joining in a choir to a Zumba session.
“The tea dance gave such pleasure,” Christabel reminisces. “Young police cadets came and danced with the ladies and we had a big band. I got the whole thing sponsored. We still do it now.”
Christabel’s next focus was a musical.
“I took over the London Coliseum and we had a musical event there for two years running. I just thought, if we could do this for such a lot of people without too much effort, why not have a day dedicated to older people?”
Councillor Flight’s passion and tenacity shine through as she explains how she overcame any possible objections.
“I went to see the person who’s in charge of that sort of thing in the government and asked if we could have a designated day for older people. He said, ‘We’ve already got a UN Grandparents’ Day’.”
A “no” wasn’t on Christabel’s agenda.
“The trouble with Grandparents’ Day is that, although everybody has had grandparents at some stage, they don’t necessarily see them. They might have moved miles away.
“I said I’d like it to be the first Sunday in October and thought it would be so much better to call it Silver Sunday, so it takes in everybody who’s older. I got agreement and we set off seven years ago in Westminster – it’s just grown like nothing on earth.
“Thousands have come on board,” Christabel enthuses. “We encourage care homes to put on events, too, and they do all sorts off exciting things. They have the fire brigade in to join in dancing. A llama has also put in an appearance.
“I can’t tell you how varied our programme is! Museums have got involved and even Buckingham Palace puts on things in the Queen’s Gallery.
“There’s a huge amount of volunteers and it makes you realise how absolutely incredible and generous people are, giving freely of their time.”
Christabel stresses that Silver Sunday doesn’t fund events, but merely provides a framework of suggestions that volunteers can then take forward.
“At any Silver Sunday event you go to you see these happy, happy faces.”
Silver Sunday is clearly worth the effort, in that it makes so many people smile.
“Giving is so much better than getting,” Christabel adds. “It’s like being a fairy – you’re just flitting around, bringing pleasure to people. I’m very privileged to be involved with it. It’s a wonderful thing to do!” ■
Silver Sunday volunteers with Joanna Lumley, Christabel and Matthew Sykes, Chief Executive of the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, which sponsors Silver Sunday.
A Silver Sunday event.