VAC’s Volunteer Health Advocates, as well as signposting people to services, get feedback about community based health and wellbeing activities. If something looks popular in the data collected the volunteers follow it up to discover more about what that organisation is doing that people like so much. Castlehaven Community Association’s programme for older people came to the attention of one volunteer after hearing a story from a patient. She initially went to Castlehaven to attend a knitting class to try and beat depression. After her initial engagement she tried out other activities run by CCA and with time adopted a new healthy lifestyle.
VAC spoke with Tricia Richards, CCA’s Operations Manager, about the Ageactivity 60+ programme.
“When I started we had three separate databases and were sending out the same information numerous times or to clients who had unfortunately died. I set up a new single database and sent out letters to those still living in Camden. I also started putting on more classes than we previously had and undertaking yearly surveys across all of our projects. We’re able find out what members want the centre to offer, what they’re interested or not interested in, things that are less popular, courses they may have done elsewhere that they feel may work at Castlehaven, the phone numbers of tutors they’ve met so we can get taster sessions of courses. Giving members this range of input has meant they have now become more opinionated which I love. Whereas in the past they would say “Oh don’t worry about it” they’ll now say “they’ve got this down the road why don’t we do that?”
We have a real mix of people from those living on their own, people still babysitting their grandchildren to people who are working and can’t wait to get out of work to do some Tai Chi.
We arrange six coach trips outside London every year and six trips within London. It’s quite funny on the coach trips, the differences in people, a small group of affluent people alongside the less well-off Kentish Towner’s to groups of people from the newer communities all together on a vibrant trip, it’s a lovely project.
Through word of mouth some of our classes in particular the Chi Kung class, attracted loads of people who we managed to persuade to become members of the Ageactivity group so they could take part in the other classes we have to offer.”
Tricia also mentioned that approximately 60% of members take part in more than one activity. These range from Ballroom & Line Dancing classes, to Tai Chi and Easy Yoga, Knit Make and Sew class to a Men Only Cookery class. Members can relax with the Bridge Club or take part in the Choir and Music Appreciation sessions. They also have an ESOL class run in conjunction with tutors from Westminster Kingsway College and the Mary Ward Centre.