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Telephone Groups: Keeping people connected during lockdown

Published on 21 May 2020 02:08 PM

Just one of the ways Bristol is supporting its older residents during the coronavirus pandemic, is the development of telephone groups.  The coronavirus Support Hub for older people is a new collaboration of 30 charitable organisations all working to support good quality of life for local older people.  One initiative developed by the Support Hub has been telephone groups, and Friends Ageing Better is delivering a telephone catch up café for its Withywood group.

Prior to lockdown, FAB ran catch up cafes across Bristol where people could meet regularly and share common interests. Some of these cafes included free Tai Chi sessions and some had regular speakers who joined the participants to talk about specific topics.

One of our most successful cafes was the Withywood Catch-Up Café which used to meet every Tuesday at the Withywood Centre Café. Members of this group shared an interest in local history, and the group contributed each week by bringing old magazines, video archives and objects that we could look at and discuss.

Based on this café, we launched our first telephone catch-up café on Thursdays at 3pm. This informal group call has been a great way to keep some of the original members of the Withywood Café connected and also being able to include new members who had not previously attended the café in person.

Jean, 92, joined the FAB membership during lockdown, following a suggestion from The Marmalade Trust. When we contacted Jean to confirm her membership, she told us she was interested in local history and that would like to have regular chats with people of her generation.

After joining our catch up, she shared: “I think it’s interesting to hear from other [older] people, because we can learn about each other and share how things were when we were younger. I don’t think young people would really understand how things were for us back then, so it’s nice to talk to others who understand.” 

Brenda, 84, has been a regular at our Withywood Café during the last year. She was very pleased to hear we were able to carry on with the group during lockdown as she has forged friendship with other members. Brenda and Jean have really connected during the last few calls, Brenda shares: “I thoroughly enjoy [the calls]. I’ve met Jean and she’s met me, and we talk to the people from the Withywood Café, and it’s lovely to stay in touch.”

She adds: “It would be nice if one day Jean could come and meet us [at the café].” We hope to resume our cafes when it is safe to do so, in the meantime we are excited to be able to offer this free opportunity for people to stay in touch, have some fun and keep their minds occupied.

The Support Hub is currently delivering three open telephone groups with plans for even more. In each of these groups, a facilitator manages the call and welcomes everyone who joins. Calls are free, and if you need someone to call you to join the call, that can be arranged. Calls last up to an hour and can be focused around a topic or simply conversational. There are a variety of groups to join:

  • Wednesdays, 11am, Alive! - Reminiscence and Chat (Dementia Friendly – suitable for carers and their loved ones with dementia as well as anyone else). Contact: Alive! info@aliveactivities.org   0117 377 4756
  • Thursdays, 11am, The Reader – the call facilitator brings a short reading, an excerpt from a book or a poem, and then the group discuss. Contact: The Reader: Michael Prior michaelprior@thereader.org.uk 07949 143 022
  • Thursdays, 3pm, - FAB, South Bristol History Catch Up Cafe (you don’t have to live in South Bristol to join). Contact: FAB: Silvia JC fab@ageukbristol.org.uk 0117 440 4301

The telephone groups have been made possible by funding from the Tudor Trust who have supported all of the groups provided within the Bristol Support Hub.

Please contact the organisers of the group you would like to join to get the details.

For details of more groups and activities available during lockdown, please visit our Linkage website.

Friends Ageing Better is part of LinkAge at Age UK Bristol.