Community Christmas Trees: Older People

This week, David Phillips, our Individual Giving Manager, discusses how your support for the Community Christmas Trees fundraising campaign can help older people across Hampshire.

We are all aware that older people are more vulnerable to the virus and have made changes to our lives to protect our loved ones. Care homes have reduced visiting, many older people have stayed at home and shops have even created special shopping hours to protect those who are older and more vulnerable. However, our efforts to protect those we love have come with significant side effects – isolation and loneliness.

Over the summer, I signed up as an NHS volunteer and have been helping an elderly neighbour, who lives by herself, with shopping, hospital trips and chatting on the phone. We only live a street apart, and I have walked past her house most nights when taking the dog out, but until this year we had never met. Barbara’s family live up north and as she is on the extremely vulnerable list, she has come to rely on help from strangers. During the past few months, we have become quite close, despite only mostly talking through the closed front door as I’ve dropped her weekly shop off.

Last week, she messaged to ask if I could take her to visit a close friend who has been unwell. Of course I said yes and the following day I picked her up. On the short drive she asked if she could stop off at Tesco to get some Christmas treats to share with her friend. As she kitted herself up, with a face mask, visor, gloves and enough hand sanitiser to kill every bug in the vicinity, she excitedly announced this was her first normal trip out (not counting hospital trips). As I waited in the car park for her to return, with a massive smile and two of the largest shopping bags I’ve ever seen, it hit me – this was no normal stop off at the shops for Barbara, she had not left her house since March.

For me this was an hour or so out of my day, but for Barbara this was one of the most exciting things in her life for nine months. Getting to know Barbara has been a real privilege, but has also got me thinking, there are so many older people living right on our doorsteps who live quiet lives, not wanting to trouble anyone, but who have been totally cut off from society this year.

Our museums, galleries and arts centres are not only nice places for a trip out to see an exhibition or a performance, they are also vital community hubs – places for people to gather and spend time together. Since joining the trust in August, I have met so many wonderful people who have shared many heart-warming stories of the sense of community in our venues. It’s great to know there is somewhere you can pop in for a cuppa and a warm welcome, especially when, for some people who live alone, this may be the only company they have.

We run a number of targeted programmes for older people such as the Still Curious project at Red House Museum and Gardens in Christchurch. The project is focused on increasing the accessibility and enjoyment of local heritage for people with dementia and their carers, by creating new, dementia-friendly programmes of activities. These include dementia-friendly heritage health walks; activity sessions similar to Memory Cafés, which we have named Curiosity Cafés, and a collection of mystery object handling boxes, Curiosity Boxes. Each activity aims to stimulate discussion, to get people more active and create a warm, sociable environment in which people with dementia and their carers feel welcomed and supported.

If you would like to make a difference in your community and support older people across Hampshire to be inspired by our great people, places and objects, you can donate here. We will email you a bauble to print off and hang on your tree at home, or you can make a donation and hang a bauble on our Community Christmas Tree when you visit us in venue.

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Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support 24 attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.
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