Nestled in the picturesque town of Colchester, England, lies a new and improved social center where those in their older years can enjoy a hot cup of tea, participate in fitness classes, obtain aid with vital services and meet new friends. An abandoned army recruitment building in the North Hill neighborhood now houses Age Concern Colchester, an important resource for the area’s elderly.

Today’s aging population faces challenges in obtaining the care and services they need to enjoy their sunset years in dignity. Across the U.K. and the U.S., seniors struggle to afford heat during cold winter months and warm food for their tables. Age Concern Colchester will help those over 50 enjoy a world of different activities and companionship while ensuring that members can get assistance with their basic needs.

From Sorrow to Celebration

Previously, the Lion Walk Activity Centre offered area elderly a hot lunch, a place to warm up from the cold, and access to volunteers to aid needy seniors in obtaining financial and food assistance. However, the center suffered funding shortages, losing nearly £80,000 annually. Additionally, the facility fell into disrepair and lacked money to make improvements.

Though the move caused some controversy initially, the Colchester council succeeded in its mission to bring expanded services to seniors. Lion Walk did offer some activities, along with a hot lunch and friendship, but Age Concern Colchester provides far more in terms of programs designed for aging residents.

Many seniors suffer from anxiety, loneliness and depression due to shrinking social safety nets and the reality of beloved family and friends passing away. Age Concern remedies loneliness among the elderly by offering friendship services, a unique perk through which members may meet friends over the telephone, in one-on-one meetings or in friendship circles.

Grieving seniors often find few shoulders to cry on after losing a loved one, especially when the deceased was their lifelong partner and confidante. Age Concern helps the elderly process their grief and form new mutually supportive relationships.

Age Concern works in affiliation with local solicitors to offer members free legal advice. Those over 60 can schedule a 30-minute consultation on alternating Wednesdays between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Club offerings currently include activities such as yoga, knitting and chess, with more being added all the time.

Filling a Vital Need

Many among the elderly wish to remain independent and live in their own homes. However, the unique physical challenges seniors face drive many into nursing facilities when they could thrive on their own with a lower level of support.

Seniors in both the U.K. and the U.S. often lack access to adequate care due to financial factors and a caregiver shortage. Many facilities such as Age Concern now offer telephone check-in services, where volunteers reach out to members on a periodic basis to help ensure their welfare. Additionally, many elderly individuals require assistance in applying for earned benefits like Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Age concern offers trained caseworkers to assist members in filling out applications and evaluating senior health needs to allow aging individuals to collect the maximum benefit amount for which they qualify. All advice services are voluntary and confidential, and those with physical limitations can have a caseworker visit them at home for application help.

Age Concern also offers crisis intervention services. Whether the cause of distress is due to the loss of a beloved spouse or consists of financial woes, the advice team assigns a dedicated caseworker to work one-on-one with seniors needing time and aid in weathering life’s storms.

Offering New Activities

While the previous facility employed only 24 volunteers, Age Concern has a volunteer staff of over 80 members, as well as both full- and part-time salaried workers. As many seniors struggle with computer literacy in our technological world, members may avail themselves of training programs that have attendees surfing the web like pros in no time.

The Warm and Toasty club now hosts memory afternoons where elderly individuals experiencing bereavement can share their favorite recollections with others while enjoying music and snacks. Bridge players will delight in a club dedicated to the game. Seniors with mild gambling impulses can participate in bingo afternoons and compete for prizes.

Moving Forward

Age Concern has received grants to continue to expand its service menu and offer an even wider range of help and recreational activities for Colchester’s aging population. Everyone needs a helping hand they can turn to, and facilities such as Age Concern help the elderly enjoy their golden years surrounded by love, laughter and friendship.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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