We regularly hear that the UK has an ageing population, and that people are feeling increasingly isolated from society, particularly as they get older. There are 24,000 people aged 65 or over living in poverty in Sheffield, and 12,000 lonely and isolated older people in the city. Pretty shocking figures, I’m sure you will agree.
Age UK Sheffield are an independent charity in the city, working to offer support and services to older people. We caught up with Natasha Wilson, Well-being Assistant Coordinator at the charity to find out more about their work.
What challenges do older people in Sheffield currently face?
There are multiple challenges facing older people in the current political, medical, financial and social climate in which we live. Some commonly heard challenges I have personally become aware of within my current role are isolation, stigmatisation and a general disregard for families living with memory loss and dementia in their lives.
Generally speaking, the society that we live in is fearful of conditions associated with later life such as dementia, and as a consequence, people shy away from discourse about it and interactions with it. This results in a total polarisation of generations, societal groups and organisations which can have ongoing negative impacts on wellbeing.
How are Age UK helping older people to tackle these challenges?
Age UK Sheffield is a one-stop shop for older people living in Sheffield. We provide services such as information & advice, help in the home, dementia support and health support to name but a few. We are committed to helping make Sheffield a great place to grow older in.
Your Wellbeing Centre looks amazing! Tell us a little about what goes on there.
What doesn’t go on there would be my preferred choice of question! Our whole ethos is centred around families living with dementia as part of their lives, and this is reflected in the family like atmosphere which greets everyone who comes through our doors. Perceptions of dementia services are generally pretty bleak, with stagnant games of bingo and Vera Lynn CD’s on loop. The Wellbeing Centre is the polar opposite of this image.
We try to build up a strong picture of who somebody really is, what is important to them, what makes them laugh, their diagnosis is almost the last thing we focus on. Just because somebody can’t remember what they ate for breakfast doesn’t mean they can’t remember every moment of England’s 66 world cup win, or what it felt like to become a parent or grandparent – those are the stories and moments that really matter.
We use that knowledge to tailor every action and interaction to bring about joy and purpose for everyone, members, families, staff, volunteers and students. Our activities are so varied it’s impossible to describe what happens each day, but in the past we have hosted our own Olympics, learnt to bellydance, had visits from ponies, meerkats, snakes, schools, nurseries and plenty of singers!
My role as an educator and facilitator in a dementia context means that I try every day, in every way, to banish people’s life limiting perceptions of what it means to live with dementia.
What’s coming up in 2018 for Age UK?
At The Wellbeing Centre we are constantly looking for ways to expand and develop to meet the desires and needs of the people we support. This year, we are developing our carer support service hosting breakfasts for family carers, “Apple Grumble” events, Sunday lunch meet ups, weekend visits and online support.
Furthermore, we want to continue developing our exciting activity programme through connecting with organisations such as SheffGives. We want to host events to mark the Royal Wedding, Crufts and a Teddy Boy/Rock & Roll themed Summer Fair which always require a lot of pre planning.
How can SheffGives followers get involved and lend their support?
It’s so important to us to reach out to our local community to support us as well as them. Any hobbies, interests, talents or skills people could offer us would be excellent. For example, if you’re a great listener, a fashionista, a DIY expert, a dog owner, dancer, singer, painter, comic… we want you to have a part in our Great Big Wellbeing Community!
In addition, if you want to learn a skill, to knit, to bake, to sketch, to waltz… we’ll probably know somebody who can teach you! The beauty of The Wellbeing Centre is that we all just help each other out, there is no us & them, you & I, we are one.
To find out more about fundraising (including running the Sheffield half marathon for us), check this link https://www.ageuk.org.uk/sheffield/get-involved/fundraising/
And finally, some of the best advice I’ve been given has come from an older person. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given whilst working with older people?
In the strongest Yorkshire accent; “If thas got nowt nice to say keep thi gob shut!”
Brilliant advice Natasha! And on that note, we can’t wait to come and visit your Wellbeing Centre and meet your guests, who sound great fun.
If you’ve been motivated to do something to support older people living in the city, please get in touch with Age UK Sheffield and see what help you could offer https://www.ageuk.org.uk/sheffield/get-involved/
Natasha was recently featured on the Elder website, which highlighted her as a trailblazer in her field. Read more here: https://www.elder.org/feature/on-a-mission-to-improve-later-life-young-trailblazer-natasha-wilson-age-uk-sheffield/ What a great write up!