The Stan Ball Centre.

Stan Ball Centre launching Friendship Circle to combat social isolation

The Stan Ball Centre.

The National Lottery funded Young at Heart project based at The Stan Ball Centre will be launching a selection of new friendship activities for the 50+ age group  on Wednesday 16th May from 2-4pm and carrying on to a further meeting for those who wish to stay on from 4-5pm (Local 50 + Forum)

The Young at Heart project is funded from 2010 to 2013 to develop activities for the fifty plus age group at the Stan Ball Centre.

Deb Brownlee, Young at Heart Project Co-ordinator, said “The first half of the project time has been spent with developing the £3.5m brand new rebuilt Stan Ball Centre from a magnificent but empty building into a thriving community centre for the target age group fifty plus. 120 events have generated 3512 visitors and the classes and groups have generated 5,424 attendances so far. Running alongside this was research into the best way to run the Young at Heart personalised Befriending Service, and after extensive research including visits to other groups, we have decided to go for the circle approach. We believe that members of the Friendship Circle can each give as well as receive friendship and this will also help to make the service sustainable.”

Many of the Friendship Circle activities will take place in the Stan Ball Centre, however for those who are housebound there will be personal visits and telephone calls by trained volunteers. Housebound members will be known as Home Members and in addition to the home visits a Computer Scheme also aims to encourage Friendship Circle members who are housebound – they will be known as ‘Home Members’ to learn how to use the internet so that they can keep also learn to keep in touch through email, facebook and skype.

Friendship Circle Home Members will be offered a computer on loan, refurbished by volunteers at The Stan Ball Centre.  The computer will be set up in their home for them and private tuition will be given to them in their own home for a nominal amount to contribute to the costs of the scheme. If the member finds they like using the internet, they can then either purchase the loan computer, or purchase their own computer. The loan computer if returned will then be used to help another Home Member to make a start on the ever expanding world of the internet.

Deb Brownlee said “We hope by removing as many barriers as we can to encourage housebound elderly to give the internet a try. They will almost certainly find far off friends and family on facebook, and will discover that they can not only speak to family anywhere in the world free of charge through Skype but also see them as they speak through. With increasing travel costs and loss of mobility there may be no other way of actual seeing and speaking to children and grandchildren. There is no doubt that the world is increasingly moving online, and not to know how to look things up online or communicate online is becoming a serious disadvantage particularly from the point of view of cost. There can also be huge savings by shopping online which could help pensioners working to a strict budget, and cheaper shopping can also be delivered to the home rather than using premium rate convenience stores”.

Friendship Circle members will also receive information about sources of help, advice and advocacy, and automatic membership of the Stan Ball Centre based Local 50+ Forum, which deals with matters of interest to local people aged 50 plus and arranges trips to places of interest. 

The Friendship Circle will also include a dedicated Stan Ball Centre Widow and Widowers group which will be launched on the same day and will meet monthly on Mondays.

Deb Brownlee commented “We have identified several other very successful widow and widower groups, and learnt a lot from them due to their generosity in sharing their experiences with us. There is clearly a need for a similar group at the Stan Ball Centre, where peer group support along with access to a lively social programme and bereavement counselling if needed can make a real difference to people. We are specifically saying that it does not matter how long ago the bereavement was, as people can still be suffering just as much many years later, and even if they now have a new partner”.

Potential volunteers for the Friendship Circle home visiting scheme are also asked to come along on the day. Volunteers will need to have an outgoing and friendly personality and will be reference and CRB checked.

Programme for the day

2pm Arrive, view leaflets and displays

2.30pm Presentation – Deb Brownlee Young at Heart project Co-ordinator:

Stan Ball Friendship Circle
Bistro Buddies
Weekly meetings
Home Visiting Service
Widow and Widower group
Digital inclusion – free loan of computer scheme ‘Try Before You Buy’.
Volunteers – what is involved with becoming a Friendship Circle volunteer
Membership of the Local Community 50+ Forum

Followed by questions and answers and registration for the Friendship Circle Groups

3.15pm Break for refreshments

3.30pm Presentation – John Jones, Chair, Local Community 50+ Forum

Followed by questions and answers and invitation to join the 50+ meeting taking place at 4pm.