Letchworth social centre adapting to meet demands of aging population

Ruth Wilson, Ulla Oaksford and Janette Young

Ruth Wilson, Ulla Oaksford and Janette Young - Credit: Archant

An independent charity which has been helping older people in North Hertfordshire for more than 70 years is learning to cope with the growing demands of an ageing population.

Ulla Oaksford

Ulla Oaksford - Credit: Archant

The Howard Garden Social Centre opened in 1953, 11 years after three worthies recorded as Miss Fairhurst, Mr Hargraves and Miss Webb held a meeting in the middle of the Second World War to discuss what facilities could be provided for elderly people in Letchworth.

The centre has come a long way from such humble beginnings, and now has more than 20 volunteers helping cater for about 200 members using the facility for day care and social activities.

But a rapidly ageing population has put an increased strain on the centre.

Nearly a third of clients are aged between 71 and 79, while 40 per cent are in their eighties.

Pauline Hughes and Gwen Kirby

Pauline Hughes and Gwen Kirby - Credit: Archant

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But the team at the centre are determined to offer a service that conquers loneliness among the older generation, and with bingo, ‘knitting and nattering’, Friday table tennis and even karaoke on offer, social isolation is not something you will find readily here.

Howard Garden Social Centre manager Alison Teschner said: “The centre plays a vital role in overcoming isolation for many elderly people as well as much-needed respite for their carers and families.

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“A small team of dedicated staff and a wonderful team of 30 plus volunteers provide companionship, social activities and a freshly cooked daily lunch.

“According to Age UK, one million elderly people in the UK are chronically lonely – many not seeing or even speaking to someone every day.

Joan langford

Joan langford - Credit: Archant

“With an ageing population this will only get worse.

“There are more than 3,000 people in Letchworth who are over 75. How many of them are lonely?

“That is why the social centre is so important.

“There are plenty of volunteering activities for people to get involved in such as fundraising, administration, cooking and serving refreshments.”

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