Reaching and engaging with growing groups of older residents

Have you ever had that moment when you look in the mirror and see your father looking back at you? Only it’s not, it’s you. And along with the realisation that ‘yes you do look like the old fellow’, you twig that crikey this means you’re getting older and how did that happen?

I’ve celebrated enough birthdays so I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not getting any younger and that inevitably, within this decade, I will join the 6.8 million men aged 60 years and over.

In fact, within 15 years, it is forecast that there will be 9.6 million men aged over 60 in the UK, according to a report from the International Longevity Centre UK and Independent Age.

The issue facing charities and councils like this one are how to reach and engage with this growing group of older men, especially those at risk of loneliness and isolation. It is an issue that we have been tackling over the past year and are highlighting this autumn in our Silver Sunday programme, which features activities, most of them free, for men and women over 65 years.

And for the first time this year there are a number of men-only activities, these include: men’s space meet up and social, gym sessions, digital photography, music and walking football.

The concept of men-only groups started in Australia in the 1990s with the ‘men in sheds’ projects. In this borough, the groups have been running since May 2014 and are, according to Open Age, useful for building confidence as the majority of men who take part are single or widowed and used to male-dominated working environments, such as the construction industry and the army.

Interestingly, when interviewed most of the men say they don’t just want men-only activities, but can find it difficult to join or ‘break into’ activities when the women using their service have already established their own group of friends. Open Age believes that the men-only activities will provide a bridge to more mainstream services as people become more confident and make new connections.

Anyway, with more than 80 Silver Sunday activities from Monday 28 September until Friday 9 October, there will be plenty of new things to try.

As well as events geared just for men, there are activities aimed at the housebound which include phone clubs, creative writing classes and discussion groups. There are also a range of sporting and physical activities such as swimming, Pilates and yoga; creative activities including drawing and painting and opportunities to study philosophy, French, and English Literature.

Finally, although I’ve gone on about the importance of men-only activities, I should point out that there will also be events for women only. We don’t like to leave anyone out in Kensington and Chelsea!

The full programme can be viewed at www.rbkc.gov.uk/silversunday

To request a programme, call Open Age on 020 8962 4141or email info@openage.org.uk

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