Pubs plan to beat loneliness among Doncaster’s pensioners

Life can be lonely for former Doncaster NHS worker Joyce Lucas.

Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 10:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 08:18 am

Her husband Eric died 16 years ago. Now aged 80, she retired from her job at the Princes Medical Centre in Woodlands 12 years ago, at the age of 68.

When she was younger, she would go through a busy day surrounded by fellow staff aand patients at the GP practice, and then return home Adwick, where she would be with Eric.

Holme Instead Senior Care held a Community Lunch event at Scawsby Mill, sponsored by Atherton and Godfrey. Pictured at the event are L-r guests Ann Cole, Byrl Rhodes, Katy Birgin, Solicitor Atherton and Godfrey, Rachel Towle, Atherton and Godfrey wills and Probate assistant, guests Anna O'Brien, Pauline Hamilton, Kathy Markwick, Independent Community Services consultant, Lynn Burrow, Scaswby Mill duty manager and Susan Taylor, Home Instead Senior Care communications and scheduling support officer. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-26-02-19-CommunityLunch-4

That all changed with retirement and the loss of Eric.

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“I would only see people when I was out shopping,” she said.

She is not the only one. Age UK has estimated that for 6,000 older people in Doncaster, loneliness is a daily reality.

Theresa Crawford, aged 74, of Bentley, is in the same boat as Theresa. She has been on her own for more than 20 years.

Divorcee Theresa retired from her job working at Littlewoods in Doncaster town centre while she was in her late 50s for health reasons.

She said: “I think loneliness is a big issue in Doncaster. I’ve been struggling for somewhere to go to meet people for a long time. Something needs to be done.

“You can go the theatre on your own, but there is no one to talk to when you get there.”

Both, however, are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the last three months, they have started attending newly set up friendship lunches, which have been held at the Scawsby Mill pub, on Barnsley Road, Scawsby. They are now being rolled out to other venues.

It is one of a number of projects which are currently being rolled out in Doncaster to try to deal with the issue, along with schemes run by voluntary groups like B:Friend, and Age UK, which runs a scheme called Community Circles.

The friendship lunches started four months ago, and are run by Kathy Marwick for a private care firm, Home Instead. It is the first such scheme the organisation has run in Doncaster, although they have already been running elsewhere in South Yorkshire. The venues provide carvery lunches at discounted cost, and the organisers throw in entertainment, often a singer.

Joyce found about about the scheme through a leaflet her daughter picked up at a GPs surgery in Bentley.

“I started going and now it’s something that I look forward to – it’s somewhere to go,” she said.

“I’ve made friends on the bus to the group. Some of them I have been away with. We went on holiday to Eastbourne, and I just been to Scarborough with some of them. Now I’m getting to meet people, and dance and sing.

“When you are on you own, you need something like this every week. There were about 50 who came to the last one.”

“This now gives me a reason to get out and get dressed up,” added Theresa. “If you don’t feel like talking, it doesn’t matter because there’s entertainment.”

Kathy, who runs the sessions, is a former bank worker who changed careers five years ago. She noticed that loneliness was an issue.

Before the friendship lunches, she ran tea parties in other parts of South Yorkshire. She hopes to bring these in to venues in Doncaster too.

“There is a need out there,” she said. “We want to do something similar in Doncaster. We are looking to do that.”

“Loneliness is not just something that affects the elderly though. One of our lunches had a lady in her early 50s who had just moved up to Doncaster.

“We are have also arranged a similar lunch in another part of Doncaster in addition to the one we already have running.”

The second venue set to hold the lunches will be in Edenthorpe, at the Toby Carvery on Lyndale Avenue.

“If people want to talk to us, we will talk to them. It doesn’t have to be a lunch – it could be a breakfast club,” added Kathy