Leeds Living was invited to visit Meanwood’s Community Centre to meet Nikki Biram of the Royal Voluntary Service and some of the people who meet at their community cafe.
Cath Kane had the pleasure of joining the group to find out more about what goes on.
Every Friday morning, some of the older residents of Meanwood, Roundhay and Chapel Allerton participate in some light exercises as well as games of Bingo, general socialising and a raffle, whilst enjoying bacon butties and brews. Some are regulars who have been coming along for years, whilst others are newcomers. I managed to find time to speak to some of the people who were there on this bright and sunny morning, to ask what these weekly meetings mean to them.
First up was Anne Newbury, a former nurse at the former Meanwood Park Hospital, who was clearly fully involved with the group, collecting money for an upcoming trip that she was organising. Anne has been attending the mornings for 15 years. She tells me “The group provides a vital opportunity for socialising and making friends, that we otherwise may not have.”
Next up was another Ann, and her daughter Lynette. Ann had moved to the area recently to stay with Lynette following a spell of ill health. This was only her second visit but is a great example of the benefits of GP social prescribing, an NHS initiative to help improve the health and well-being of people through referrals to local physical and social activities. Referrals to the group are also made through Leeds City Council’s Neighbourhood Network Scheme, and various charities, who are all aiming to reduce social isolation for older people living in our communities.
The group relies on volunteers to keep running. In the kitchen making the food and hot drinks were Tony and Celestine, with the former travelling a round trip of over a hundred of miles most weeks to help out. Helping Nikki with the activities was Elie, and as I was leaving I bumped into Colin, who volunteers driving some of the more housebound members to the mornings, who would otherwise struggle to get there. Transport can be arranged on request and the RVS will do their best to accommodate.
The participation of the residents of the local communities and the Royal Voluntary Service volunteers was heartwarming to witness. Meeting up just once a week can help to alleviate the feeling of isolation and loneliness amongst older people, and contribute to their wellbeing as well as that of the volunteers! It makes a difference and can be so satisfying for those who have just a couple of hours a week to spare.
It’s clear to see that strong friendships have been formed here, many of which continue outside of these Friday mornings. If you know of anyone who would be interested in attending who live in or around Meanwood, they just need to pop along on a Friday morning from 10am. The full address is Meanwood Community Centre, Stainbeck Avenue, Leeds LS7 2QU.
Check out the RVS website here for details on other community mornings in and around Leeds, as well as information on how to volunteer at a Community Centre near you.
All photographs by Cath Kane.