Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely dedicated to combatting loneliness and social isolation amongst older people through face-to-face contact. Supported by a network of over 10,000 volunteers, they organise free monthly tea parties on Sunday afternoons. These events occur in hundreds of communities across England, Scotland and Wales. The gatherings offer a regular opportunity to socialize and a vital chance to chat, laugh, and build friendships.
Each older person is collected from their house by a volunteer driver. They are then taken to a group meeting for the afternoon at another volunteer's home. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month. However, the drivers remain the same for each service-user. This arrangement means that over months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship. The tea parties are a real lifeline for friendship for the older guests, who often have little or no contact with family or friends. They bring together people of all ages, helping them find company and develop support networks.
Support from People's Postcode Lottery players has been vital in helping this simple but effective solution reach more older people. Thanks to £250,000 in funding, the charity has launched new tea party groups in previously unreached areas. Over the last year, Contact the Elderly has added, on average, two new groups every week. There are now tea party groups in over 770 communities across the UK.
Older guests frequently speak of what a real difference these tea parties make to their lives. At a recent new group, one attendee said, "I feel very emotional, as I only go out when I have a hospital appointment and there you do not get to talk properly to people. This tea party has made me feel alive again with such kindness shown. I really cannot wait until we do it again.”
Sunday 1st October was International Older People's Day, a day dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging the enormous value of older people in all our communities. Contact the Elderly continues to look for new guests, new volunteers and new areas in which to operate. With a little help from our players, their work is making a huge difference in the lives of those who need it most.