Beverley Racecourse is hosting raceday tea parties to help combat loneliness and isolation among older people.
The racecourse has teamed up with Contact the Elderly, a charity which organises monthly tea parties to ease acute loneliness among older people, aged 75 and above, who live on their own. The first of the tea parties will be held at the racecourse on Tuesday, July 31, and will see 40 local elderly people enjoy an afternoon of tea, cake and conversation, with the backdrop of top-quality horseracing and family entertainment.
Jean Blake enjoys afternoon tea at Beverley Racecourse with Contact the Elderly organisers Jill Wood, left, and Jennie Falconer, third left, and racecourse Marketing Manager Kate McKee.
Kate McKee, Marketing Manager at Beverley Racecourse, said: “We’re thrilled to form this partnership with Contact the Elderly.
“It’s such a worthwhile charity and does so much to tackle loneliness among older people by hosting monthly tea parties in the homes of volunteers. We saw there was an opportunity to adapt the concept by hosting tea parties in a very social setting here at the racecourse and enable our guests to enjoy a day at the races, something a number of them may have enjoyed in the past."
“We’re hosting two tea parties this season, when racecourse staff will take time away from the running of the raceday to host the parties and ensure our special guests enjoy plenty of tea, cake, conversation and camaraderie. We’ll be pulling out all the stops to give them a great day out.”
The partnership was inspired by an initiative in May which saw residents from three Beverley care homes invited to the sixties-themed Bygone Beverley raceday to reminisce about racing in the 1960s. Kate added: “The care home residents thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon with us and their heart-warming reaction inspired us to want to do more to help older people in our community.
“On finding out more about Contact the Elderly we saw a perfect fit, with the opportunity to host further community tea parties and also to use our resources to help spread their message. Research by Age UK suggests there are more than 6,000 lonely older people in East Yorkshire, which is absolutely heart-breaking. It would be wonderful if our partnership can help raise awareness of all the great things Contact the Elderly do in the community and prompt more volunteers to come forward to be part of their amazing work.”
Loneliness is a growing epidemic among older people, with over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over living alone . Approximately 3.9million older people say the television is their main source of company.
Founded in 1965, Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people through face-to-face contact.
With help from over 11,000 volunteers nationwide, Contact the Elderly takes more than 6,000 older people out for afternoon tea every month across the UK. Hosted by volunteers in their own homes, the Sunday afternoon tea parties help people get out of the house, socialise with others and develop friendships. Guests are collected from their home by a regular volunteer driver, which means that, gradually, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.
Jean Blake, 90, has been helped by the charity for 10 months and admitted it had been a lifeline.
She said: “I think these afternoon teas are a wonderful idea. In our group we’re all a similar age and are widows or widowers and we’ve become friends. We’ve all lost someone and we all look forward to getting together – to get out of the house and talk."
“When my husband died, everything stopped. I stopped going out and I couldn’t drive. I had anxiety and depression brought on by spending so much time alone. These get-togethers make you feel useful again and give you a purpose. I was lonely before and now I have something to look forward to.”
Contact the Elderly Development Officer Jill Wood and guest Jean Blake enjoy a cuppa in The Attraction restaurant at Beverley Racecourse.
Jill Wood, Contact the Elderly’s Development Officer for East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, said: “We’re so excited to partner up with Beverley Racecourse. It’s so inspiring to see local institutions like the racecourse taking action to help the thousands of isolated older people in the community, and we hope others follow suit.”
Jennie Falconer, Contact the Elderly volunteer coordinator, said: “Our tea party hosts make everyone feel so welcome with home-made afternoon teas, sometimes a glass of prosecco, and often a little pack-up to take home with them. We know there are many lonely and isolated people in our area and we want to reach out to them. Our Beverley group has a strong team of drivers but we need some more volunteers to host tea parties. Hopefully this partnership with Beverley Racecourse will raise awareness and help us to gain more members and volunteers.”
Tea party guests and volunteers from Contact the Elderly will be at Beverley Racecourse’s Family Raceday on Tuesday, July 31. This midsummer afternoon of racing is a new, family-themed event featuring appearances by Chase and Marshall from the hugely popular TV series, PAW Patrol. Activities will include a giant inflatable play zone and PAW Patrol storytelling sessions. The second tea party will be on the final raceday of the season, on Tuesday, September 25.
If you know someone aged 75 or over who lives alone and has little contact with family or friends who might benefit from a tea party, or would like more information, including how to volunteer, please call freephone number 0800 716 543. Alternatively visit www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk