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'It keeps your mind active' - Times Series visits Scrabble and art group in Potters Bar
According to researchers at the Campaign to End Loneliness, up to 13 per cent of elderly people feel isolated in their old age, while a further 12 per cent feel trapped in their own homes.
In response to the worrying statistics and due to the rising demand from an ageing population, activities for those in their later years are on the increase.
Times Series reporter Chris Hewett visited members of one group in Potters Bar to find out how a popular board game and a number of painting easels are helping them keep an active social life.
For every member of the over-50s Scrabble and art group at Furzefield Court, the weekly meetings provide a chance to take part in a fun, recreational activity.
For some though, the club provides much more in the form of a social, friendly and welcoming atmosphere, away from the occasional isolation of their own homes.
The sessions at the retirement home, off Mutton Lane, form part of Hertsmere Leisure’s over-50s programme of activities.
There is a relaxed atmosphere at the Friday sessions where, aside from a love of word games and an interest in watercolour, visitors can enjoy a cup of tea and a bit of invaluable company.
Charlie Stirling, of The Drive, Potters Bar, was a specialist painter and decorator after serving in the RAF and joined the art club ten years ago.
The 86-year-old, who has been married for 62 years and has three boys and three grandchildren, said: “I’ve never looked back since. It is a great social club – the company is the main thing. There is a lot of activities in the area and there is always information about it – there is plenty going on.
“It keeps your mind active – you need a bit of a stimulant.”
Charlie, who suffers painful arthritis in his leg, relies on other members of the club to pick him up.
The helpful, friendly aspect is a common theme among this and other groups, with some members, like Mary Fouracre, travelling from far afield to take part.
She and her friend Sheila Wiggins have been coming to the Scrabble club for 20 years. Mary travels from Enfield every week because of what she says is a lack of provision for elderly people in the neighbouring borough.
Ann Shearly organises the activities for Hertsmere Leisure, which took over running the groups from the local authority four years ago.
She said: “It is a chance for them to put away their everyday troubles and just do something they enjoy. It gets them out of the house – gives them a focus and helps keep their mind active.
“It is very popular and we have no shortage of people wanting to get involved.”
Dorothy Flude, of Mount Grace, Potters Bar, has been attending the art group for four years.
The 89-year-old, was looking for ways to fill her days following the death of her husband ten years ago.
The grandmother-of-two, who also goes to keep fit classes and bowls, said: “I came down as it is an activity that is peaceful, restful and creative.
“I’d never done anything like this before – I haven’t improved a great deal but that doesn’t really matter if you ask me.
“It is a great, social activity and more people should get involved.”