Dementia cafes and day centres help to tackle loneliness across the county

Dementia Cafe at Tithe Barn, Horstead. Group leader Diane Collins, centre left, with regular user Mu

Dementia Cafe at Tithe Barn, Horstead. Group leader Diane Collins, centre left, with regular user Muriel Hamilton, right.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Most of us have felt lonely at one time or another and understand the unhappiness that loneliness brings.

Dementia Cafe at Tithe Barn, Horstead. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Dementia Cafe at Tithe Barn, Horstead. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

For the majority of people it's a temporary state of affairs, but for others it continues day after day.

Across Norfolk there are estimated to be around 38,000 people aged 65 and over who are lonely; many will have been coping with loneliness year, after year, after year.

And Age UK Norfolk is one of many charities aiming to tackle this, as they took Norfolk County Council's In Good Company pledge to believe no one should spend a lonely day in Norfolk if they don't want to.

Age UK Norfolk's Pabulum Dementia Cafés were set up to help tackle the isolation and loneliness that many people with dementia and their carers experience.

Dementia Cafe at Tithe Barn, Horstead. Group leader Diane Collins.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Dementia Cafe at Tithe Barn, Horstead. Group leader Diane Collins.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The cafes offer a relaxed environment where people with dementia and their carers can meet others, socialise and gain mutual support.

And as they know their loved ones are in safe hands, full-time carers can take some time for themselves or catch up with friends.

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Age UK Norfolk has two day care centres in Norfolk, Grays Fair Court Day Care Centre in New Costessey and the Denny Day Care Centre in Diss, where older people can make friends, share a meal with others and enjoy a wide variety of activities.

One service user said: 'I enjoy attending the centre as it enables me to have social contact, good company and a good meal in a friendly environment.'

Another added: 'Instantaneous acceptance of other attendees and friendly staff make it a joy to look forward to each session.'

Many of those who use the sessions have also become volunteers themselves, as they found it offered a way out of their loneliness.

As well as having the reward of knowing that you are helping others, volunteering is an opportunity to make new friends and feel part of your local community.

The In Good Company Campaign relies on the support of dedicated volunteers. To get involved with Age UK Norfolk call 01603 785241, or email volunteering@ageuknorfolk.org.ukFor more information on In Good Company click here.

Telephone befriending

For people who are not ready or able to go out and about then Age UK Norfolk's telephone befriending service can offer a first step.

In addition to the companionship it brings, telephone befriending means the security of knowing that someone is going to call at a specified time on a regular basis.

The service is used by hundreds of older people across Norfolk. Feedback shows that those who receive regular calls feel:

That life is worth living;

They are not forgotten and they belong;

They have a friend who cares, who is trustworthy and reliable;

Less lonely and less anxious;

They can engage in ordinary conversation, are happier and more confident;

They no longer feel a burden to society;

Their emotional and physical health is improved, as is their general well-being and quality of life.

Some users of Age UK Norfolk's telephone befriending service have become volunteer befrienders themselves, having found that the service has improved their confidence and valuing the opportunity to give something back.

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