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Young at Heart

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Young at Heart offers a range of services to combat social isolation faced by older people in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. 

/media/community-projects/library/youngatheart2.jpgThe project runs friendship groups in Butt Lane, Hanley, Kidsgrove and Meir Heath to befriend isolated older people and provide social opportunities. There are lunch clubs, social clubs and outings, offering a wide range of activities for people to take part in that improve their health and wellbeing.

The activities include musicians, exercise classes, crafts, bingo, games, healthy eating sessions and much more. Speakers also visit to offer information on wide-ranging topics such as healthy living, benefits, staying safe in the home and more. We hope to extend to more areas over the coming years.

You can find information on when and where the groups meet on the Young at Heart events page

Hanley Lunch Club video - Matt Ford talks about the impact the Hanley group has on older people in the area.

Young at Heart provides a gardening scheme in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, where volunteers tend the gardens of vulnerable older people in order to overcome isolation, reduce the fear of crime and improve the environment. Volunteer befrienders are reaching out to lonely older people in Hanley and surrounding areas, providing a lifeline that can make all the difference.

Young at Heart is recruiting volunteers in North Staffordshire. If you can spare a little time to make a lot of difference, please contact Matt Ford on 07587 034299. 

History of Young at Heart

The project came about in 2013, when the Trustees of Father Hudson’s Care agreed that developing new services for isolated older people in the community was a priority. The Head of Community Projects approached priests in the North Staffordshire deanery to research the need. Three priests, aware that many older people were losing support services due to local authority cuts, indicated that they would value support to meet the needs of older people in their communities.

The parishes of Hanley, Kidsgrove and Meir, which encompass nine parish communities, committed to working in partnership with Father Hudson’s Care to develop services. They visited both Maryvale and New Heights in Birmingham. Inspired by what they saw, they agreed with Father Hudson’s to move forward. The parishes agreed that whatever resources they had, in terms of community buildings and volunteers, would be offered to develop the work. Father Hudson's Trustees funded a Project Development Officer for two years from a legacy they had received. The plan was to develop this pilot work and seek external funding to continue the project.

In April 2014, Father Hudson’s Care employed a Project Development Officer who successfully helped to create three “Young at Heart” groups across Stoke and North Staffordshire in September 2014. The groups met monthly with attendance averaging around 20 to 40 people at each session./media/community-projects/library/youngatheart.jpg

In Meir the group uses a local community facility and has been so successful that they have increased to twice monthly, as well as organising many trips.

In Hanley, the Project Development Officer assisted the parish not only with setting up the group, but in bringing in local community volunteers to decorate the Community Hall and one of the main rooms. In 2015 a new fortnightly lunch club opened in response to consultation. Hanley is fortunate in having a large parish centre which can be used for the group.

In Kidsgrove, local councillors agreed that the group could use the Town Hall as a venue.

Regular coach trips began at the request of the members. These enable people to get out of their local area and enjoy a trip somewhere new. An extra benefit is that the trips enable people from the different groups to get to know each other.

The strength of the groups lies in the immense support of committed volunteers with whom the Project Development Officer has forged links. Some are new while others have been involved with the St Vincent de Paul Society or parish previously. The Project Development Officer also successfully engaged local businesses, such as Tesco, and councillors to obtain resources and funding to help the groups. The councillors have seen the value of the Church community working in this way to serve the wider community.

One local councillor and the local police indicated that another pressing need was a gardening service for older people living alone, as overgrown gardens can be an invitation to burglars and put isolated older people at risk. In the summer of 2015, with the help of BBC Radio Stoke, a project began and was well received.

In 2016, the project took over the running of the existing lunch club at Congelton Road Community Centre in the Butt Lane area of Kidsgrove. The club was threatened with closure after the person running it decided to step down. Not wanting to lose the service for older people in the area, Young at Heart was approached to enable it to keep going. 

Young at Heart is funded through the Staffordshire Community Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation, as well as other generous donors. 

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The ongoing challenge is securing funding to ensure the future of this work. There are many services still needed, including support with shopping, form filling and attending health appointments. Father Hudson’s Care is determined to develop this work alongside parish partners and others.

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