The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, visited Caritas Diocese of Westminster’s key project addressing the plight of the elderly and isolated in our communities.
The venue was a ‘Contact the Elderly’ tea party within St Monica’s Parish in Westminster’s Palmers Green parish on Sunday 15 September.
It currently has seven regular older guests, five volunteer drivers, eight volunteer hosts, and one volunteer coordinator – all of whom are parishioners. The older guests are 75 and over, with many into their 80’s and 90’s; they live alone and find it difficult to get out and about without someone to help them.
Archbishop Vincent said:
“This Sunday tea party is a delight with gracious older guests mixing with three generations of the host family. When a family opens its home in this way everyone is blest. The elderly return home, often to days of loneliness, but with joy in their hearts.”
The parish group was launched in March 2013 and meets for tea on the same Sunday of every month.
Sunday afternoon is highlighted as a particularly lonely day of the week for older people living alone.*”
Volunteer drivers collect the older guests from their homes and drive them to the home of a different volunteer host each month when most community services for older people are not available at weekends. Treacey, the volunteer host said:
“My family was delighted to welcome this small group of older people and their volunteer drivers into our home for afternoon tea, which we enjoyed as much as they did. Many of the older guests told us how much they look forward to these monthly outings and it was great to see for ourselves how much they were all enjoying themselves.”
The older guests and volunteers, although local to each other, did not know one another when the group started, however the tea party has been a catalyst to the formation of good friendships between people of all ages.
82-year-old guest Valerie said:
“I really enjoy the tea parties; everyone is so kind and I count the Sundays down until the next one. It is no fun getting old, but this kindness makes such a difference”.
The Diocese of Westminster boundaries have an estimated Catholic population of 422,000 and include the London Boroughs north of the River Thames, between the River Lea to the East, the Borough of Hillingdon to the West, and including the County of Hertfordshire to the North.
Caritas Diocese of Westminster (CDOW) was established in May 2012 and is the social action agency of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Westminster which facilitates social outreach work to tackle poverty and social exclusion. Caritas Diocese of Westminster brings together established charitable organisations, enabling them to share resources and expertise in helping the poor and marginalised. CDOW connects diocesan agencies, charities and statutory agencies with local initiatives such as parish projects. Work is based on sharing good practice and collaborative working.
‘Contact the Elderly’ was founded in 1965. It is the only national charity solely focussed on tackling one of the greatest challenges facing society: loneliness and isolation among our rapidly ageing population. Supported by a volunteer network, the charity organises free monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people in the homes of volunteers across England, Scotland and Wales. With over 500 groups nationwide, the charity provides a regular, consistent and vital friendship link every month to nearly 4,200 older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone, without family or friends nearby. At the same time, the charity also encourages its almost 6,700 volunteers to find enjoyment and fulfilment in achieving the charity’s aim and making new friends.
*Statistics based on Contact the Elderly research undertaken among a sample of 2,000 older guests and 2,000 volunteers during 2012. In all instances where an answer was not stated or a recipient stated ‘don’t know’, these were excluded from the figures.”
Archbishop Nichols’ Pause for Thought
Archbishop Nichols appeared on the Chris Evans BBC Radio 2 programme on Tuesday 17 September, giving his ‘Pause for Thought’ where he spoke about his experience at the tea party.