With thanks to Catherine from Open Age, for this entertaining insight into life for the over 55’s.
Life doesn’t have to slow down or stop as you get older. But all too often people over 50 can feel that life’s given up on them. So Open Age works with older Londoners to create chances to get together, find work, learn new skills and develop new interests. Established in 1993, the charity works across Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham to help people stay healthy in both mind and body to keep living life to the full.
Open Age runs around 150 weekly activities across RBKC. It has two dedicated centres, New Horizons in Chelsea, and Second Half Centre in Ladbroke Grove. In addition, Open Age works from over 25 community venues including libraries, sheltered housing schemes, churches, sports centres and community centres. Open Age also has a dedicated employment programme; to support people aged 50+ back into work, which is based from the Positive Age Centre on Dalgarno Estate, W10.
Activities range across creative and performing arts, IT, languages, socials, trips & lunches, physical activity, keeping fit & well, therapies and culture club. In any given week you can go to drama, zumba, philosophy, painting, Spanish or gardening, plus much more! As one member said, it’s “an amazing facility – so much on offer for so many interests”. All of the classes are either free or around £1 an hour, so it’s low cost too.
As well as a wide ranging programme of activities, Open Age also has some specific projects dedicated to support people. In RBKC Open Age runs the link-up project, which works with people who are isolated, or at-risk of isolation and visits them at home to support them into activities. The link-up staff help the person to address any barriers they have to going to a group and can accompany them the first few times.
There are also weekly phone groups for people who are housebound. Each week people join a conference call (for free!) and can take part in a social/discussion group, creative writing class or a monthly book group. There is Time for Me, a project specifically for unpaid carers aged 50+. It provides carers with an opportunity to take time for themselves to take part in an activity, go on trips to the theatre or to restaurants and make new friends. The group acts as a support network for people who can often find themselves cut off from others due to their caring responsibilities. As one attendee said “Chatting and having a laugh makes my caring role easier to manage.”
Open Age also runs a dedicated men’s project. Older men in RBKC can take part in 20 hours a week of men’s only activity, which ranges across drop-ins, music, films, lunches, gym sessions, football, table tennis, IT, digital photography and trips.
Finally, as well as a wide-range of physical activities, Open Age runs two dedicated clinical exercise programmes, Steady & Stable and Healthy Lungs. Steady & Stable is an evidence based programme to improve balance and reduce falls to keep people living independently. Taking part helps people to keep mobile and be able to do the things they want. As one regular attendee stated: “I would feel something was missing in my life if I didn’t come to this class. It has built my confidence so that I am not afraid of going out on my own anymore.” As well as building confidence, the classes also give people the opportunity to make new friends and are designed to be fun! Healthy Lungs is an exercise class for people with a diagnosed lung condition which is designed to help alleviate symptoms, get fitter and do more.
But it’s the words of the member’s sum up the benefits of Open Age best:
“Open Age is absolutely a god send for the elderly, for both socializing and mobilising the body”; “It has given me a new lease of life”; “Open Age is wonderful and has opened many doors for me and many others”; “I attend for my wellbeing and my health has improved 85% my need for medication has almost stopped and my time is now spent so looking forward to classes”, and finally, “I love the fact that we are not treated as “old” people”.
To find out more about Open Age and the activities on offer please go to www.openage.org.uk, call 020 8962 4141, or pop in to the main office in St Charles Centre for Health and Wellbeing, Exmoor Street, W10 6DZ.