Having tea with old friends in Cambridge

I recently saw a posting on social media about Contact The Elderly, a charity that organises volunteer-led monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for older people.   It is a national charity with local representatives and aims to transform lives with tea, chat and friendship.  So, over a cup of tea, I met with Catherine Wheeler, a Cambridge resident who has been with the charity for two years to find out a little more.

It caught my attention because when I wrote my blog about the wonderful independent cafes in Cambridge, someone got back to me and suggested that I produce a similar one about cafes that are accessible for the elderly.  I promise to do that soon.  However, the simplicity of the tea parties and its huge benefits inspired me to promote it.

With an aging population, we as a nation must address many issues – social, medical, emotional – such dementia, immobility, loneliness etc.   Cambridge is a wonderful city but expensive, busy and difficult to get around and therefore not very welcoming for the elderly so free initiatives such as Contact the Elderly’s Tea Parties are great for bringing people together. 

Catherine explained that you can either get involved as a host or a driver.  To become a host you will be contacted by the regional co-ordinator (Georgina.sells@contact-the-elderly.org.uk) and your home checked for accessibility (ie: downstairs loo and easy access by car) and that you can accommodate up to 12 people. 

As a host, you can do as much or as little as you like, but for a relatively low commitment there are massive benefits. The charity reaches out to people who live on their own, in sheltered accommodation or private residential homes.  Each month the same people get together with different hosts so friendships are formed.

Catherine’s daughters, Freya and Iona, always get involved with the Sunday afternoon tea party: baking cakes, biscuits, tea and sandwiches, helping on the day and making a big fuss of everyone.  Whatever is left over goes into a doggy bag which the guests love.  Catherine sums up, “There’s a lot of effort on the day, but it’s great fun and it is only one day.  It’s good for all of us to get to know elderly people in our community.”

Please find more information here

Catherine was interviewed by Dawn Giesler, founder of scuseme, a recommendation website developed to provide an essential resource to help your family run smoothly. Dawn has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information please visit: scuseme