The Senior Friends was formed so that in addition to caring for the elderly of the Church any elderly person who wanted to come along from the area would be welcome. The first meetings were,
Not very exciting, mostly beetle drives and a few solos etc., there was little comfort, the gas radiator did not work very well and Mrs Summers boiled the water in her house for our tea.
– First Community House Newsletter, 1970
It is no surprise that the new building was so welcome,
We aim to try and give a few hours of friendliness and fellowship to some lonely people, every other Saturday. Under ideal conditions, a Hall well lit and well heated.
– First Community House Newsletter, 1970
Numbers quickly grew and membership soon reached well over a hundred. The committee’s first major problem was how membership was to be restricted; should priority be given to people in special circumstances or people living nearest to the church? It was really only resolved years later when a waiting list was no longer necessary.
Within Senior Friends, there were people blossoming for the first time, finding and using talents they did not know they possessed. There were opportunities for forming new relationships and sharing new experiences such as they had never known nor even dreamed about. Many were aware that they were in touch with a new spirit or that a new spirit was touching them.
– Cyril Summers
Brian talks about Senior Friends, which was started by his father, Vic: He talks about the way it was run.
50 years of Senior Friends.
A typical Christmas lunch is described in Outlook magazine,
Over 120 sat down to the main meal of turkey and all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, mince pies and the proverbial cup of tea. The dinner was splendid and we were afterwards entertained by the Rogerstone Silver Band….Mr Percy Edwards gave us some solos in his good tenor voice and Mrs Rose Price sang solos and duets.
– Outlook Magazine, 1968
Annual holidays were organised to various locations, in 1976 for example, 67 people went for the week to Margate.
By 1973 there were 130 members, just over their maximum permitted number. One of the unsung activities of the club was sick visiting, There was a sick fund to which every member contributed at each meeting.
Every week someone is being visited and taken gifts of flowers, fruit or eggs, and I have quite a few letters thanking the visitors and the Club for their kindness.
– Community House Annual Report, 1973
The Old Tyme Concert Party.
Senior Friends enjoyed many days out.
The Senior Friends could be vociferous in complaining if they felt their cause to be just. Cyril recounts an occasion when the Elders had incurred the wrath of Senior Friends,
The furore that followed when the price of a cup of tea was increased by one penny should have been anticipated. Before family feelings were restored, Senior Friends' relationship with the Elders had been severely strained. It was another of those interesting learning experiences. The Elders were reminded that you cannot be too sensitive and that changes of only one penny require top-level consultation. Senior Friends became more aware that within the family at Community House, they could not automatically claim privileged treatment. Justice demanded that all were treated alike.
– Cyril Summers
In the 1980 Annual Report there is an account of the Senior Friends Concert Party. This group of 25 members had been busy performing in various places including Abercarn, Pontywain, Pontymister and Caerleon. Among the groups entertained were senior citizens, Salvation Army, Mary Dunn Club, homes for the aged and disabled, groups with mental health issues and multi-sclerosis sufferers.
This met on Friday afternoons from 2pm and was an addition to the Saturday meetings of the Senior Friends. A wide range of entertainment is listed for the year in 1973, including films, dancing displays, health and retirement talks, song and piano recitals, choirs, something called ‘crazy whirl’, beetle drives, guitarists, bingo games, quizzes, darts matches and debates on such things as ‘Women’s Lib’ and ‘The Royal Family’. There were trips organised to Symond’s Yat and to see Ruddigore. ’Don’t be lonely, come and join us!’
The Good Neighbour Scheme
& Adopt a Garden
Some jobs that had begun under the Job Creation Scheme were developed by Hilary and Lisa. Among them was the ‘Adopt a Garden’ scheme.’
Old folk would be in tears of frustration seeing their once beautiful garden a tangle of weeds and brambles….the object of the scheme was simply to encourage men and women to adopt one such garden, not simply to make it tidy but if possible bring it back into productivity of vegetables and fruit.
– Cyril Summers
The Good Neighbour Scheme was a national one launched by the Minister of State for Social Services in 1977.
It was designed to provide an emergency service for people living alone, by providing a ‘help’ sign, which could be displayed, and by training neighbours to act quickly and appropriately in an emergency.
Relationships developed in a number of ways and some volunteers continued to give substantial support for many years. Milkmen were recruited and given minimal training so they too could respond quickly if yesterday’s milk had not been removed from the step.
– Cyril Summers
Job Creation Scheme, 1976
This account comes directly from Cyril’s book,
The opportunity came to set up a work force of unemployed men and women through the Government Job Creation Scheme to improve the living conditions of people who were old or handicapped. The women provided a ‘Welfare Rights’ service; obtained building materials, wall paper and paint through the DHSS and visited people in their homes’
We knowingly employed people with police records. This could have involved risks and could well have been considered irresponsible as so much of the work took place in people’s homes. The workers had to be trusted and trusted implicitly, there was no other option.
The team, with training, …learnt to turn their hand to most things. They did draught proofing, chimney sweeping, and small jobs requiring bricklaying and plastering as well as painting, decorating and gardening.
Mrs R. who was eighty had a beaming smile, a great sense of humour, chronic bronchitis and a rented house that was dripping with damp and falling around her…Even Cliff (the supervisor) was a bit daunted at the sight of the place. When some remedial work began, the landlord complained that the team were interfering with his property.
Old people living alone, and without family living nearby, are particularly vulnerable when discharged from hospital. The Visiting Team, having been alerted by a social worker would prepare the house for their homecoming and provide non-medical aftercare. The team were able to inform social workers of ‘risk’ situations and a network of care was gradually being established. During 1976 about 1,5000 visits were made and 167 jobs completed.
– Cyril Summers
Dorothy Summers helps prepare the lunches.
TLC & Pensioners Lunch Clubs
In the first Annual Report of the newly completed Stage Two we read,
The Women’s Voluntary Service are bringing 12 hot dinners every Friday at noon and these are served to 12 Senior Friends by one of our Elders and his helper, (Mr Ivor Watts) who is neither a Senior Friend nor a member of the Church but has kindly offered to help in this service. With the faculties now available in our modern kitchen such as fish and chip fryer, eye level griller, full-size gas cooker, not to mention our latest acquisition – a ‘ fridge’- the preparation of 12 hot meals a day or every other day, should not present too much difficulty in organisation.
– Community House Annual Report, 1970
When Senior Friends ceased to exist in its own right, its role became subsumed into the Tuesday Lunch Club known as TLC, or ‘Tender Loving Care.’ TLC continues to offer a shared meal in convivial company with conversation and a range of entertainment. Brian works hard to maintain links between the elderly and the young: Maindee School come over for reminiscence sessions and to sing for the elders. Playgroups down the years have been encouraged to share their Christmas, Easter and Harvest celebrations with the Lunch Club members.
Christmas lunch is as popular as ever and members can be as thorny as they ever were over the increase of a penny on the price of a cup of tea! Amongst much joy there has been occasional wrangling over the quantity of gravy and potatoes on one plate compared to another!
The character of TLC is changing with austerity measures in the local authority. So many Day Centres have been closed that Community House is now one of very few places where the elderly can go for a meal and company. Older, sicker and frailer people, who would have been catered for in more specialist groups are now attending more frequently and their frailty brings additional limitations on what the group can do and pressures on the volunteers who run it The magnificent volunteers who work tirelessly each week are among the great-unsung heroes of Community House. Most recently it is Annie and Lynne who don the aprons but a series of famous (and occasionally infamous) cooks have presided over the kitchen. The care extends far beyond the provision of food, even to the extent of a personalised birthday cake for each member.
27 June 2017
Ann Andrews, has been a member of Community House for over 15 years: She explains the effect of the regular Church services on members of Tuesday Lunch Club. Regularly meeting together and sharing food bonds the community together, combats loneliness and gives a feeling that people look forward to every week.
5 September 2017
Lynne Cooper, who runs the Kitchen for TLC, explains how she got involved: Lynne recalls how she gained the trust of the older ladies that were no longer able to run the group.Everything was done with the utmost respect and care of their feelings and it is characteristic of the way the group operates.
The Queen's Jubilee party for Lunch Club and Maindeee Primary School.
The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations were a recent example of how TLC and local children have enjoyed and benefitted from each other’s company. The Lunch Club’s Jubilee Party was in response to a visit to taste “school dinners” earlier in the year. It continued to build on the delight that old folk enjoy with children and the fascination that children have with living history.
– Brian Selby
The Tuesday Lunch Club encourages an understanding of pensioners as people; so the children are able to recognise them in the street and help them. But an exercise like this is also valuable as living history and finally, many pensioners do not have direct experience of ethnic minorities and the Club helps draw people together.
– Brian Selby, Local Newspaper
This group was established by Siddique Salaam for MIND in 2005. It was for retired Asian men to meet and socialise in a non-religious setting. The original aims of the group included: setting up activities to match the interests and needs of the group; to support members with personal concerns, benefit entitlements questions and give links to other services; to combat isolation, raise awareness of mental health problems and provide health advice. It is a very social group, having gentle exercise sessions with a trainer, and will be trying IT sessions soon. Dostana appears to be the only group in the City offering support to this group of men.
Dostana gentlemen meet for social support.
26 June 2018
Mohammed Gulzahr explains why he comes to Dostana: “I used to have an allotment in St. Julian’s. I used to work there. Daytime sometimes go there and sit down and work. Now I can’t do it. When I’m not here (at Community House), sometimes I just sit down there. That’s all I have.”
Music & Memories
Studies have shown music and singing can help stimulate brain activity in Alzheimer’s patients, possibly helping them recall emotions and memories, Music and Memories is an example of this work that The Alzheimer’s Society in Newport is involved in.
The group provides individuals who are living with dementia and their family or carers opportunities to reconnect with their past experiences and emotions through music. Music and Memories can be a great source of comfort and support to patients and their families. New friendships are being forged, and singing together is a great outlet for expression.
16 June 2018
Julian Thomas, leader of Music & Memories, talks about the power of music and engagement to reactivate the brain: “Music is a powerful tool if you use it in the right way. A lot of the carers say that when the clients leave, they are more lucid and their memories are a lot sharper.”
Julian Thomas with the Music & Memories group.
16 June 2018
Listen to part of a Music & Memories session.
Music & Memories is a lifeline for Dementia sufferers and their carers.
12 May 2017
Jayne Delahaye brings her mother to the Music and Memories group: “She loves the singing and being part of the group”. Jayne says she is happier after the sessions, and they find it easier to communicate.
Ann brings her husband to Music and Memories and describes how much she enjoys the group: She was at first reluctant to attend but has found friends and other women facing the same problems she does. Her husband loves the group but they both look forward to it every week.
David Thomas Davies
David has been attending Music and Memories for 9 months: If his wife who has dementia refuses to get up in the morning he comes alone because he enjoys it and gets such support from it. He sometimes performs himself so people stop chatting and join in with the singing and actions of ‘ The Music Man’
Manuel’s wife is so affected by dementia that he spends most of the week driving her around in the car where she is calm: But though it was hard to get her to attend at first, she now loves Music and Memories. "It’s the music and meeting people, she feels at home here and she thinks it’s great."