Hosts and drivers in demand as tea charity expands

Monthly tea parties for older people can ward off the threat of lonliness
Monthly tea parties for older people can ward off the threat of lonliness

A popular charity which organises monthly tea parties for older people has revealed plans to expand.

Contact the Elderly, which has had a presence in the area for more than 20 years, wants to launch new groups in Falkirk and Clackmannanshire by the end of the year and is appealing for volunteer drivers and hosts.

The events involve volunteer drivers collecting an older person who lives alone in their local area and accompaning them to a tea party at a volunteer host’s home.

The commitment for volunteering is a few hours once a month for drivers and once a year for hosts.

Recent research by the charity has revealed more than 90 per cent of its volunteers feel they are really giving something back by being part of its free monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for older people who live alone.

Janice Kerr, development officer at Contact the Elderly, said: “Our tea parties are well-established and exceptionally popular.

“Guests and volunteers alike thoroughly enjoy their Sunday afternoons together once a month.

“There has been enough interest from potential guests for us to believe there is an opportunity to establish a second group in both Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

To do this, we need to recruit additional volunteers.

“Guests and volunteers of our current groups have told us just how much the tea parties mean to them and that they would recommend them to friends and family.”

Contact the Elderly currently has over 800 groups throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

The network provides a regular, consistent and vital friendship link every month to over 6000 older people.

There are over 10,000 volunteers supporting the groups.

Laura Brown, a legal secretary who lives in Grangemouth says being a driver for Contact the elderly has made a positive difference to her life.

She said: “I’ve been doing it 2013. It was at a transition period in my life between university and a 9 to 5 job.

“I saw a leaflet in the doctor’s surgery for the tea parties and I knew that once a month on a Sunday would suit me.

“Since then, it’s actually become a bigger part of my life than I thought.

“I have developed great relationships with some of the guests I drive to parties.

“I phone some of them just for a chat sometimes, and a few of my guests even came to my wedding in March.

“We are all so busy these days, but this is a way to help ward off loneliness for a lot of people.

“It’s minimum effort for maximum impact.”

As a driver, Laura has seen first hand the difference the tea parties can make to people.

One of her guests, a widower who had been anxious about attending, said the tea parties were a “first class experience”.

The 27-year-old said: “He was really struggling but that company once a month really brought him up.

“He became more resilient and was able to cope much better with things.

“The idea of the tea parties are wonderfully simple but for the guests they get a chance to do something they wouldn’t be able to do.

“Having that regular contact has a massive impact.”

One house Laura goes to is Linda McLauchlan’s who hosts a tea party once a year at her Tullibody home.

She has been volunteering with older people for 12 years but, after retiring, became a host with Contact the Elderly five years ago.

She said: “I got involved because I like to see people happy.

“I know my mother was very lonely when she lived alone and I know how much she enjoyed it when people came to visit or when I would take her out in the car.

“I just thought, well, why don’t we do that for more people?

“The tea parties are two hours and it’s very nice.

“We have tea and a chat and maybe some jokes, quizzes or stories. I absolutely would encourage other people to do it.”

Visit www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk for more information.