Well connected

A group of mostly older adults of different ethnicities, sat together on chairs and on the floor in a brightly-lit room, smiling at camera

Islington Giving is a local charity working to reduce poverty and isolation in Islington. It supports hundreds of projects each year, including community centres that help older people to stay active, learn skills and make friends. The Claremont Project is just one of these. We find out more about how it’s helping older people feel less isolated

Many older people are isolated and lonely – and winter is often the toughest time of year for them. The Claremont Project in Angel is helping to address this, improving people’s quality of life through free weekly classes, allowing them to come together and talk, dance, paint and laugh.

“It’s a place for people to come to build connections and be part of a community,” says Ruben, a Claremont regular. “There are lots of people who have lost people – the activities here take people out of being isolated and give them a focus.”

Islington Giving has supported Claremont since 2012, providing vital funds to continue creating opportunities for older people to make social connections, improve their mental health and become more involved in their local community – people like 84-year-old Roxanne, who first came to Claremont for a coffee morning.

There, she met membership engagement officer Charlie. Roxanne explained that she’s an only child, with very few members of family left. She’s also now a wheelchair-user, after several years of physical health decline. “Roxanne was emotional and seemed embarrassed and confused by her tears,” says Charlie. “But there has been a lot of loss in her life. So her emotion was understandable.”

While she felt “lighter” having spoken with Charlie, Roxanne wasn’t keen on joining any classes at first. She felt she “didn’t really fit in at Claremont,” she says. “I thought it was a place for older people.” She was convinced she wouldn’t make it back to Claremont.

Then, out of the blue, one day Roxanne stopped by the centre. “I was happy and surprised to see her, but she soon started crying,” Charlie explains. They spoke about grieving for oneself as part of the aging process. “It’s exactly that,” Roxanne agreed. “I feel I am grieving for younger, more able me.”

Roxanne attended a Friday concert at Claremont, where she met a more diverse group of members. She found that other people at Claremont also don’t relate to feeling “old”, and she’s now a regular at a singing group. “Although some of the songs stir up emotion in me, I’m more accepting of this now,” says Roxanne. “Sometimes it’s OK to cry.”

This winter, Islington Giving is raising money to support more local projects that build connections, spark joy and change lives in Islington. To donate, visit the Islington Giving website.

Pick up a free postcard in Angel Central this December, write a message, and pop it in the Islington Giving post box or give it to somebody on the stall and it’ll be sent to help bring a smile to a neighbour’s face.

Image: Emma Marshall

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