As Age UK Tameside fast approaches 50 years of service to the community, we spoke with Age UK Tameside celebrity Barbara to find out about her life in volunteering and learn more about the group's work.
Age UK Tameside has recently created a bit of a stir in the media, with volunteer Barbara appearing as the face of the independent charity on two TV shows on the BBC. One of these appearances went out on Christmas Day, and showed Barbara and Age UK Tameside staff, alongside Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty, talking about her time as a volunteer at the centre.
Back at the HQ, Age UK Tameside offers the chance for people over 50 years of age, from any background or any living situation, to come in and partake in one of the many clubs they offer, and for nearly 19 years, Barbara has been a friendly face for people to socialise with during the clubs. “To come here is lovely, I am lucky. I'll be 80 in June, and I think that getting up and coming out here has given me a purpose, and I am hoping that I can keep coming back even after I am 80!”
While Barbara has been a volunteer at Age UK Tameside for 19 years, this has not been her only experience in providing care and fun for the elderly. "We used to be really into the Beatles back in the day, and my husband used to play the guitar," said Barbara. "I still have his guitars and all his music at home, and we used to go and play music for MIND on a Saturday night where people with mental health issues could come and listen.”
Barbara and husband Mike would play music for a number of years before his unfortunate passing. But eventually she got back into the swing of volunteering, and she thanks Age UK Tameside for helping her find her purpose again.
“That was where he used to put the music on, and I used to help him with that. We went to different places playing the guitar, but all that stopped as he suddenly died when he was 62. We no longer played music for the benefit of people with mental health issues. It was July 2005 when my husband had passed away, and I thought I must get back into volunteering. I have come in here come rain or shine. I love coming here and I love working with the people and all the activities we do!”
The centre provides a chance to have fun and socialise for people that come into the centre, and Age UK Tameside also provides people with vital services for their wellbeing.
Claire Webber, the Enterprise Development Manager, told us: “We do look after mental health as well. We have NHS mental health referrals and we do assessments and reports on them as well.”
The Age UK Tameside Be Well team leader, Becky, expanded on this, saying: “Our activities change every eight weeks, but people like the singing coach and the person who does the exercise normally come in every week. We get a mixture of people from care homes, from warden-controlled flats, people that live on their own, a whole mixture of people. Some people just come as they are lonely.”
The club that Age UK Tameside are most well known for is their 131 Club, which provides people that attend with a two-course meal and is a great place to meet people and get involved with the activities that the staff members and volunteers are running. During the winter time, they have also been running the Winter Warm Hub, which provides over-50s with a hot meal and a place to socialise and keep warm.
Overall, the Age UK Tameside centre runs about 16 different services for people, including benefits information, a Blokes and Brews social group, a footcare clinic, exercise studio, community support groups where staff do home visits, dementia support and much more. Claire told us: “We supported more than 7,000 older people last year and 80 per cent of our services are completely free of charge.”
“Many do not realise how much goes on here,” Becky said. “They come here and they are amazed at everything on offer.”
With everything going on at the centre and wonderful volunteers such as Barbara, the Age UK Tameside centre has been providing people from multiple backgrounds with everything from mental health support to day trips and activities.
Many may be led to think that Age UK Tameside are able to fund all of their events and schedules through the larger Age UK Charity, but this is not the case. “We are an Independent Brand Partner,” said Claire. “Just like any other charity in Tameside, we are responsible for raising our own funding in order to provide vital community services.”
One initiative that the centre has set up is the 365 Supporter Club, which Claire told us more about. “This would equal out to a donation of £1 per day – or more – which would help the centre continue their life-changing support for their clients.”
Age UK Tameside are also looking for more volunteers to join them across every aspect of the centre, and they hope that people will come forward to make a difference to people's lives, just as volunteer Barbara and many more have done at the centre.