Cheylesmore is a neighbourhood in Coventry of about 6000 households. The Good Neighbours Group is aimed at providing social opportunity and support for retired people living in the area. It was started with the help of a grant from the GrumbleSmiles Trust and began in January 2014 with a survey of needs.
(The full details of the set up of the Group and the initial survey we carried out can be found in the Archive on blogs dated 16th and 18th March 2014.)
From a standing start the group has established itself very well. To the point where there are now between 20 and 30 regular attendees at the group every fortnight. The group meets in the Quinton Park Baptist Church Hall which is a location very central to the Cheylesmore area. It is walking distance for most of the attendees, although it is also on a bus route and a few come by car.
During the year we have held a series of talks on everything from Coventry’s history, to war time experiences in Changi Prison, to genealogy to Coventry’s Transport Museum. We also provided a lot of practical advice about smoke alarms and fire prevention by the Fire Service; home safety from the Community Police; and voluntary groups talking about hearing impairment, support for carers, Age UK support services and Health Watch. More related to the immediate neighbourhood we had a talk from the manager of a new Asda store and from the family running a local Indian restaurant who provided an excellent buffet as well as talking about Indian culture.
Interspersed with all of this we held a series of entertainment events which included Male Voice Choir concerts, Sing-along sessions and quizzes, which are always popular.
As a spin off of our fortnightly meetings, we have held regular pub lunches, set up a sewing group and some of the group have been on theatre visits together.
All of this has built up a lively group who enjoy the social gatherings and have gradually developed levels of trust and friendship with members and the steering group.
It’s been a very interesting year and there’s no doubt we have provided an opportunity for the local residents who come along to increase their social contacts in the Cheylesmore community.
The organisation of the year has fallen on five people in the Steering Group, who are themselves all volunteers and have given at least a day a week of their time for the whole year. I am immensely grateful to Frances, Yvonne, Alex, Julia and Alan. We have also enjoyed the support of two local councillors, one of whom – Hazel Noonan, is now the Lord Mayor of Coventry.
There are challenges in the year ahead in terms of increasing the membership, widening the range of services and finding continued funding. But this small group has the potential to do much more to deal with the issue of loneliness and isolation amongst older people, not just in Cheylesmore but as a model in Coventry and elsewhere.
I’ll write about this in my next blogs on this subject.