Supporting older people in Suffolk

See some of our highlights from the past year working with Suffolk Community Foundation to help local residents stay active, happy and healthy.

Age UK – a grant of £9,000 towards the cost of recruiting a Dementia Community Development Officer for West Suffolk.

Age UK reviewed the objectives for the new role so that the new Development Officer could reach the maximum number of older people. They also identified which towns in West Suffolk were most in need of support for people with dementia and would benefit from a Forget Me Not Club.

Bridge Project – Sudbury – Awarded a grant of £1,600 towards funding lunchtime workshops.

They held an initial interactive session with Lunch Club attendees using a laptop linked to the main viewing screen.  Christmas scenes were projected on to the screen whilst they ate their meal. After lunch, there was a Christmas Carol and music medley sing-along.  Lunch Club attendees participated by making requests, singing along as words appeared on the screen, and generally remembering songs and films from earlier days thereby aiding social interaction and well-being.

For most of the participants this was the first time they had used tablet computers. It was widely reported that the fear participants had had of ‘breaking it’, or of not knowing what to do, was eradicated. This increased their confidence to seek out new opportunities and information.

The group continue to run monthly sessions across the lunch groups, dementia group, and mental health groups, as well as introducing the equipment to adults with learning difficulties.

“One of the most significant moments came when an individual who doesn’t read or write was introduced to the voice-activated software, and how that then made it possible for him to engage with a whole world of information that he had previously felt excluded from.”

Bury St Edmunds Ecumenical Centre Trust (BECT) – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards the cost of artistic workshops.

Posters, flyers, and an email newsletter including the usual local press advertising were produced, and two initial taster workshops were run from the Moyses Hall Centre on 8th & 22nd Feb. Participants were loaned Reminiscence boxes for the purpose of conjuring memories through handling objects. They had a visit by a local historian, Clive Paine, on 22nd February 2016.

This project has made a difference to the lives of those attending by conjuring up memories of their past school days, and sharing these experiences whilst taking individuals out of their usual social sphere and routines to reflect. They attended a local art group and overcame apprehensions towards meeting new people, drawing and painting.

“Met some interesting people, improved my art skills, enjoyed conversation, enjoyed adding items to a community art display”

“It has been great to do something which is very different to anything I’ve done before and very enjoyable”

“I think the group has been a success. Everyone has got on well together. I cannot think how it could be improved.”

“I feel that I have contributed to a tiny piece of St. John’s school history, met some nice people and learnt a lot from Genista.”

Dial – Lowestoft and Waveney – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards funding an advisor who will provide an outreach service across the Waveney area.

DIAL have assisted 16 service users over the age of 65yrs since the beginning of the project. Thirteen Home Visits were made as the service users were unable to attend the office due to mobility and/or health issues.  A further two appointments were at more rural outreach services via GP practices and a local Job Centre, with one service user only being able to attend the Lowestoft office.

This enabled older people with disabilities or long-term illness to spend more on heating, food, clothes, transport – in fact anything which improved their quality of life and made them more comfortable. It often also helped relatives and carers, who may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance. The relatives and carers also benefited from knowing that the service user had access to more funds which could benefit their lives. In addition, each client was given other information to help them; for example, information about equipment which may help them in the home, or a suggestion of referral to Occupational Therapy services. All of this meant they were less anxious about their conditions and lives in general.

East Suffolk Association for the Blind – Awarded a grant of £1,000 towards monthly social events.

The visually impaired often find it difficult to go out in the wider community and the group try to make sure they have the support to attend a monthly social. They can become quite lonely and isolated. Most of the members are elderly and many also have restricted mobility. The group provides transport to enable them to get out of their homes and come to the socials. They very much enjoy themselves at the socials and the musical entertainment provided lifts spirits. The group are very fortunate to have ample volunteers to make sure members are safe and happy at the socials. Members often tell the volunteers how much they have enjoyed the afternoon and how they look forward to coming again.

Hands on Heritage – Awarded a grant of £432 towards the volunteer costs of the “Dig It” project.

They have started work on the programme, and have a team of volunteers working on site on Thursday of each week. Considerable progress has already been made on preparing the trenches and walls for the re-burial of the artefacts.

The older volunteers who have been responsible for the design, digging and construction of the project have all acquired new skills, new experience of team working and a new sense of community initiative and responsibility that they will take back to their own local communities.

“One member of the team, recently retired and widowed, has become very involved with the project using his knowledge and skills in the building industry to lead others in the construction of the flint walls and floors of the ‘villa’. As work has progressed he has led other volunteers to explore the difficulties in the laying of mosaic floors, experimenting with different techniques to find solutions: For instance, how to mark out and lay the tiles; trying different mortar mixes to achieve a speedy and level working surface. This volunteer has just returned from a visit to Herculaneum and Pompeii, his first holiday alone since becoming widowed.”

Hope Trust – Awarded a grant of £379 for an under-counter fridge.

The Hope Trust seeks to offer older people a place where they can come out from their own four walls into a place of community and social inclusion. Those who join them enjoy company but they really love it if someone can offer them a home cooked meal, especially if they usually rely on ready meals.

Hope Trust invited people to join them for a post-Christmas lunch on 27th December. Those invited were known to the group as people who, for whatever reason, were not going to be with family at Christmas. Having an invite to lunch on Sunday 27th December was a social lifeline to more than one person who joined them.

Huntingfield Parish Council – Awarded a grant of £1,300 towards the cost of running lunchtime cooking and sharing sessions.

The village hall is still under construction, sessions are expected to start in May 2017. They are currently looking for volunteers to run ‘Tea & Cakes’, ‘Cooking and Sharing’ and ‘Fitness for the Elderly’.

Lawshall Tuesday Club – Awarded a grant of £1,000 towards core running cots.

The grant of £1000 enabled the group to provide some entertainment for the Christmas meal in 2015.  Twenty-six members were present for the carvery, and they were able to take 14 in the Community Bus that they could hire. After lunch they returned to their Village Hall where they were entertained by Gill Nicholls a professional singer who dresses in Old Tyme Musical outfits and sings Christmas songs.

Later in December, just before Christmas, they hired an excellent keyboard player from a local church and they all sang Christmas carols with other in-house entertainment for the afternoon.

The committee meeting in January allowed the group to discuss the outings programme for 2016 to include:

  • Royal Anglian Museum
  • Newmarket Stud and Museum
  • Sandringham
  • Gifford Hall

These places are normally out of reach for many members, but they will be able to travel in the mini bus.

The grant made a great difference to the organisation. One of the main reasons that so many attend is the variety of entertainment and projects that the group were able to offer as a result of the grant: the ability to initiate a very varied programme. The group were pleased to have had visits from local authority representatives coming to show what is available to those who are physically handicapped and living alone. One elderly and disabled lady, as a direct contact with the club, has had central heating installed almost free of charge for the first time in her house.

“’Nan’ as she is so fondly called is 95 years of age and resides in The Willows Residential Nursing Home situated in our village. She served the community as a Special Needs teacher for some 40 years before retiring. She is gradually losing her memory but is very alert. Many in the home are unable to communicate with her because of their dementia. Nan attends our club regularly and describes it as her ‘life line’. She is able to come on all of our trips, though we have to care for her 100% of the time. She is always ready and waiting on time such is her eagerness. On our trip to Bressingham it was a joy to see her on the steam trains but most of all riding with others on the carousel laughing like a young schoolgirl, and this will long remain in the memory.”

Lowestoft Shopmobility – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards core running costs.

This grant has enabled many people to retain their independence and do their own shopping and trips out. This in turn must have an impact on the shops and the local economy. They also know that carers appreciate their service, as it often gives them some respite from their caring duties.

“I enjoy getting out and being able to do some shopping for myself. The scheme helps me to get around town and down the seafront with my family.”

“Gets me out of the house which makes me feel better”.

“Able to socialise and be independent. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy or indeed join family for holidays if this service wasn’t available. Thank you.”

Mid Suffolk Light Railway Museum – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards the development of a small workshop building.

Mid Suffolk Voluntary Organisations Forum- Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards the cost of Redwoods lunch club.

The Grant enabled the organisation to add the Soup & Sandwich (Now called Soup & Chat) sessions to the Redwoods Lunch Club project. The Soup & Chat sessions ran successfully in the year to November 2016 and continues to do so. The Lunch Club provides healthy food and good company for older people on the 2nd and 4th Monday in the month and the Soup & Chat sessions provide a homemade soup, bread and cake in a more informal setting on the 1st Monday in the month.
The main meal for the Lunch Club is provided by an external caterer. Meat and vegetarian options are always provided. The volunteers make the puddings to follow the main meal and the healthy soup made with seasonal vegetables. These are always well received and we receive many compliments about the quality of the meals. The grant helped pay for the provision of food by the caterer and purchases for the puddings and soups made by the volunteers, plus the running costs of the Redwoods venue at Red Gables.

Music in our Bones – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards the cost of providing 20 singing sessions.

Used to support WellSpring Singing at Margery Girling House, Felixstowe.
The funding secured will enable the project to run for another full year. A flyer has been created for the term ahead.
During January, Tracy Sharp will make contact with the two possible singing volunteers and gauge their interest and capacity to get involved in some mentoring training Music In Our Bones is planning.

The last session in December had 24 attendees including a couple in their 90s, a Dad in his 60s who has Parkinson’s disease (he finds the singing helps both his posture and the strength of his voice) and he brings his son who has moderate learning difficulties with him. His son spoke movingly of the way that being part of the group has given him a sense of purpose and makes him feel much more confident. A carer of a daughter with severe learning difficulties a couple in their 80s suffering from arthritis plus several older single people from Margery Girling most with serious mobility issues who really enjoy the chance to leave their flats and have some very social and fun musical time as they can feel very isolated in the evenings especially when everything else stops.

“Jane changed name) is 72 and was encouraged by a friend to join WellSpring’s singing group as a way of having some time for herself as she is caring for her much older husband in his 80s with Alzheimer’s and seldom able to get out. The isolation of caring for someone with dementia, when friends stop visiting as they don’t know how to cope, was especially hard for Jane who is a naturally social person. How can you make new friends and meet new people when you are unable to leave the home? Early evening proved to be a small window of time that Jane could use. She arrived saying ‘ I can’t sing a note and don’t know why I’m here!’ She returned however, having loved her first session, smiling and saying how good it had been for her as ‘for two whole hours I didn’t think about my husband’ and how beneficial that mental break had been, meaning she returned to her caring role a little restored and feeling she had more to give. When a volunteer had to leave who previously ran the refreshments for the evening, Jane and her friend in her 80s stepped forward to take on the task enjoying the responsibility and social aspect of their job, and never missing a session. Jane also heard about Suffolk Family carers through the group, made contact, and was encouraged to have two respite breaks a year to ensure that she continued to be able to offer her husband the life at home he wanted. Without the group, she would not have realised that she was entitled to a Carers Assessment and funding to help pay for such breaks. Her husband’s dementia meant that he wouldn’t accept ‘strangers’ into the home so Jane was becoming increasingly exhausted with broken nights as well as tough days managing his double incontinence. Her respite breaks were essential in allowing her to carry on caring without destroying her own health. Recently, sadly, her husband’s condition has deteriorated still further requiring spells in hospital and now he does need nursing care. Throughout these difficult weeks however singing has clearly been an important and joyful life-line for Jane. She even managed to join the group for the Big Sing in between hospital visits. Photos show her revelling in the company of her new singing friends. WellSpring’s sense of community, singing bringing people together to share their lives in a profound sense, has led to rich connections being formed between members which Jane in particular this year has especially needed. Singing with new singing friends opened out the world again to jane and offered her important nourishing support through difficult and dark times, enabling her to sustain a very demanding caring role and to extend the time she could cope alone at home with her husband’s care as she always hoped to do.”

Our Special Friends- Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards supporting vulnerable and socially isolated older people.

The group work with a wide variety of clients whose needs, some quite severe, arose from problems with mental health, disability, alcoholism, age and social isolation. Many clients had been housebound for some considerable time. Volunteers were matched with the clients and visited with dogs. The connection with the volunteers and the animals encouraged participation in outside events, including social interactions and physical activity/exercise, that the clients would otherwise not have been able to access

Rural Coffee Caravan – Awarded a grant of £1,996 towards the costs of running four Afternoon Tea events to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.

Invites were sent to various age- and dementia-supporting organisations including Age UK Suffolk, Sue Ryder, Suffolk Family Carers, Sensing Change and Alzheimer’s Society. They ordered a stock of slippers and ferrules and collected memorabilia and researched film footage and music. Flyers were printed and circulated.

Each community got completely on board with these events and supported them in unexpectedly high numbers. Village activists were delighted that so many people joined in when it hasn’t been their habit to do so.

Each provided a great opportunity to build on acquaintanceships and get to know neighbours better. Those who don’t generally join in were expressly asked to come to future events if the village put anything on. The atmosphere at each event was vibrant and uplifting.

Second Chance Stroke Club – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards professional physiotherapy for those suffering from strokes.

They are now paying for a Specialist Neurological Physiotherapist weekly, and the group has improved so much that they are about to purchase a variety of weights, recommended by her, to help their members achieve greater strength in their limbs. They now rent a second room each week to allow for greater movement in the classes as the exercises become more strenuous. The difference in the group’s mobility is really striking. “For the first time, last Tuesday all the members of the group managed exercise for 15 mins in ‘standing’ without a break.” Group leader.

Snape Village Hall – Awarded £2,000 towards refurbishing the village hall.

Villagers and hall hirers have been impressed with the overall refurbishment of the hall and it has given local people a sense of pride in their hall. This has been evidenced by continued support for fundraising activities.

“We have a woman in the village whose daughter died following an allergic reaction to nuts. I agreed to ensure we had posters at the hall to highlight not only food allergies but also allergies in general and to be mindful when sharing food etc. She regularly attends the monthly coffee mornings and felt listened to and supported by a single small action.”

Stowmarket Dementia Action Alliance – Awarded a grant of £1,881.60 towards providing health and well-being exercise sessions.

They held a ‘Living Well in Later Life’ event, organised by United Response, in April 2016 when the materials were available for use by attendees.

There were 359 attendances at the Living Well Class over five months. Participants included sufferers, carers, and supporters. All participants completed a questionnaire, with questions on expectations, outcomes, quality of delivery, effectiveness of instructor, access and how enjoyable, ratings from 1-10. All responses were positive with ratings of 9-10 for all categories. Comments included ‘Fun and enjoyable’, ‘Socially inclusive’, ‘Felt much better and fitter’, ‘Have lost weight’, ‘I have more flexibility’,’ Met new people and don’t feel so lonely’, ‘It has helped my depression’, and ‘I look forward to the class every week’

‘I am a carer for my husband who had a major stroke 20 years ago, from which he recovered well, but over the past 3 years he has deteriorated mentally and physically resulting in dysphasia and lack of feeling on his right side. The class has provided him with social contact and, importantly, physical exercise within his capabilities under expert supervision. He had in the past attended Keep Fit classes under Bob Halls but did not continue as his health deteriorated.

The class takes place in a friendly and lively atmosphere and Bob is very aware of the disabilities of everyone taking part and encourages all to work within their own capabilities. There is a lot of laughter and friendly banter which is so important for those who live alone or like me have a partner with whom it is difficult to have conversations. It is also good to meet in the cafeteria afterward for a chat and get to know each other.”

Sue Ryder Care – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards supporting the running of The Synergy Cafes.

Since this funding, they have continued providing the 11 Synergy Cafes throughout Suffolk with a full team of staff and the support of 25 valued volunteers.

They have launched a new Ipswich Synergy Café, open every Wednesday, and 14 people have signed up and are attending.

In the last year, the Synergy Cafes supported over 338 people, of which 90% were over the age of 65, to live healthier and happier lives resulting in visiting the doctor less, improved emotional and psychological health and improved physical health through participation in exercise-based activities at the café.

“Before I found this place I was struggling with [caring for my husband]. I was constantly angry, frustrated and depressed. I had no one to talk to that truly understood. Coming here has literally saved me”. (Carer)

“The friendships made here are so important and valuable. It’s so comforting to have someone to talk to that is in a similar situation. Knowing you’re not on your own is so helpful, it feels like a weight has been lifted”. (Carer)

Suffolk Artlink- Awarded a grant of £1,700 towards the cost of running Forget Me Not sessions.

A grant from The Pargiter Fund has enabled Suffolk Artlink to programme a further five Forget-Me-Not sessions on the Constable Suite at Ipswich Hospital. The project worked with patients living with dementia and/or complex needs to improve their well-being through meaningful interactions and using a therapeutic play approach.

The Forget-Me-Not sessions have provided patients with comfort and reassurance. The one-to-one interaction with individuals on the ward have distracted, calmed, relaxed and cheered up patients. Through feedback and case studies the artists have responded to a variety of needs and situations, from scared, frightened, upset patients, to emotional end of life visits. In just the summer term 2016 there was a significant positive change to the level of anxiety for 97% of the patients the artists visited.

The Forget-Me-Not visitors enable patients and their families to reconnect with each other through the sensory activities they introduce, either through gentle hand massages, poetry or music. Music especially inspires communication between loved ones; patients would often join in a song at this time and a family member is able to forget the illness.

During the summer 2016 (including the five sessions funded by The Pargiter Fund) 93% of patients experienced a positive change to the level of engagement with family members and hospital staff.

Forget-Me-Not visitors offer distraction and comfort to those patients who are distressed, anxious, bored or presenting challenging behaviour; the project can take pressure off hospital staff, allowing their time to be better spent on medical tasks.

98% of patients participating in the Forget-Me-Not project experienced a positive change to their level of happiness and relaxation.

“We were working on the constable suite at Ipswich Hospital and engaging in some banter with a lovely lady and her daughter who was visiting. Milly was playing her Ukulele and Kitty the Kazoo to a fairly lively rendition of “Side by Side” which was having a positive effect as the lady in question was worried about having an MRI scan the next day and we reassured her it was painless but a bit noisy and that it would probably be more pleasurable than our singing! “

Suffolk Mind – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards the cost of counselling sessions for those suffering from Dementia.

Outcome measures show that for those living with dementia 25% were visiting their GP less at the end of therapy and, for those caring for them, there was an 11% increase in visits to their GP.

Upbeat Heart – Awarded a grant of £2,000 towards funding of a Cardiac Nurse.

Members can exercise in confidence knowing that there is an experienced cardiac nurse on site at all times. There have been 504 consultations with the nurse during the period of the grant averaging 27 per morning. The nurse can signpost members to other agencies, if necessary. She has also been able to fast-track members if they present with symptoms that she feels need urgent attention, by contacting hospital or their GPs. She has also helped in training 20 members in CPR, so they have members with knowledge of resuscitation.

The growing confidence in the new members exercising cannot be stressed enough. They arrive very nervous and lacking in confidence of how much exercise they can do, and gradually they flourish and grow in confidence. This is much to do with having the cardiac nurse on site. They know they will be looked after.

“John is a 92-year-old. He was bereaved and alone. After heart problems, his daughter contacted us and asked us if we would be able to take him, as he was very deaf and had limited sight. We visited him at his residential home and invited him to come along. We found him a lift and he duly appeared the following week. He absolutely loved it and continues to come, now exercising twice a week. It has completely changed his life with new friendships and he feels much more confident in his health. He now plans to take part in the Christmas Party with some magic tricks. He is constantly thanking us for taking him on!”

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