This blog follows on from the Cheylesmore Good Neighbours 2014 Review which was published on the 21st January 2015.
In the last 12 months in the small Cheylesmore Good Neighbours group that we have established, we have overcome some of the natural barriers that occur when a group of strangers meet for the first time. Nonetheless there are still some practical hurdles we have to overcome.
The most obvious issue is dealing with hearing loss for some of the members. Although we have purchased a sound system and microphones, these are not natural things for the group to use – so we have complaints from people who can hear that we don’t need the sound system and silence from the people who can’t hear, often because people don’t want to admit to their failing hearing. The church hall that we are using doesn’t help this because it has bare walls on a solid floor. The church is endeavouring to put quilted wall hangings up, but they make little difference to the long reverberation times.
Lack of transport is a problem for some people, though people seem to make it for most meetings. Luckily we have been blessed with fairly good weather in the last 12 months. Generally members don’t have cars so it’s not easy to set up a collection system for people with mobility difficulties.
This brings me onto the third hurdle which is lack of volunteers. In the first year most of the set up work has been done by the steering group. Fortunatly we do have volunteer members to run the signing in process, set up and sell tickets for the raffles and put away chairs at the end of the meetings. A number of people bring in cakes and one lady regularly donates fresh vegetables from her allotment during the summer months. These are all small signs of the group coming together.
During the year, Coventry City Council decided to promote itself as an Age Friendly City, and towards the end of the year appointed Kam Kaur as the Project Manager. She came and did a talk about her early thoughts and we have now agreed to make this subject a key theme in the next 12 months, which hopefully will enable the group to better inform Kam’s work and take part in any future initiatives the City wishes to pursue.
Our biggest challenge in 2015 will be to increase the membership significantly in order to make the group more self-sustaining. Greater membership should give us a larger pool of volunteers as well as a stronger financial resources from the membership fees. The current group would, I am sure, be quite happy to keep coming in the next 12 months if we continue to provide a programme like we did in the previous year. In practice we are not doing anything significantly different to many other groups who run social clubs for older people, both in Coventry and elsewhere.
To do things differently and appeal to a wider group we have to answer a key question :- “what makes people expand their horizons ?” I think the answer lies in fulfilling individual interest and enabling people to help each other. Both of these things are what members of the Steering Group already do, so perhaps we need to expand the Steering Group.
My next blog will say more about our next steps in this direction.