Age Concern Reading was set up in 1976, by Age Concern Berkshire. At that time there was a drive to set up local Age Concerns in each town/area to organise lunch clubs for pensioners. There was an identified need for those pensioners in the town of Reading, who were living in poverty, to have a regular hot meal.
Over the years, the lunch clubs have continued in various guises and other services have been developed.
Age Concern Reading at first shared premises with Age Concern Berkshire at Wilton House, Wilton Road, Reading, but then moved to premises in the Caversham Road. In 1983, a move was made to 302 Oxford Road where a charity shop was opened downstairs and the office was set up in the rooms above.
The charity shop was handed over to Age Concern (the national charity) at the end of 2006, to be managed by their retail team, with an agreement for profit sharing. When the national charity, Age Concern, became Age UK they announced that they would be closing the shop at the end of the current lease which was June 2011. This left four Age UK shops in Reading: (two in Caversham, one in Tilehurst, and one in Whitley Street). A new profit share agreement was set up giving Age UK Reading a share of profits from the two Caversham shops and the Tilehurst shops (Age UK Berkshire having a share of the profits of the Whitley Street shop, along with the Pangbourne and Thatcham shops). This tapered off over the next few years and was eventially replaced with an annual partnership grant.
By 1990, Age Concern Reading was also providing an information service to older people in Reading. In 1991, the then Mayor of Reading, Mrs Kay Everett, set up the “Thursday Drop In” at Reading Civic Centre, which is still operating every Thursday, as part of the Age UK Reading information provision, at the present time under the name of the “Age UK Reading Thursday Pop In”.
A support service for carers of older people was running in the early 1990s until the Princess Royal Trust Carers Service was set up in Reading.
During the 1990s, Age Concern Reading had its own transport “ambulances” to ferry clients to their lunch clubs, but in the early 21st century, this service was closed down and Reading Transport Services was used for lunch club transport instead. Transport was later also provided by Readibus.
The focus of the lunch club service changed over the years, to a service which reduces loneliness and isolation in older people who find it difficult to socialise due to their frailty and/or disability. Giving them an opportunity to have a meal and share activities (like bingo and reminiscence sessions) together helps alleviate their feelings of loneliness.
In 2006, funding was obtained from The Earley Charity to set up Befriending and Foot Care Services. From small beginnings, these services grew to benefit 800+ clients per year (foot care) and 90+ clients (befriending) at any one time.
Age Concern Reading moved from 302 Oxford Road Reading to the current premises at 42 Portman Road Reading in December 2011. Having been accepted as a brand partner of the new charity Age UK (a merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged) earlier in 2011, re-branding to “Age UK Reading” took place alongside the move to these offices.
In 2015 Age UK Reading undertook a major restructure in line with a significant reduction in grant funding. We have since worked hard to adapt the organisation to the new funding environment. We are working towards our 3 year strategy to improve and grow upon our current service offer, and develop a better capacity for fundraising from new sources.