Golden Years: Maintaining friendships in retirement
Loneliness is a huge problem affecting the elderly population. The death of a spouse, the necessity of care, or the lack of friends can really affect a person’s mental health, and this in turn, if not identified and worked on early, can have a detrimental effect on physical health as well. This is where Golden Years can help. With a group in Wellingborough and one soon to open in Northampton, this group is a lifeline to many older people.
Golden Years is a social friendship group dedicated to making sure elderly people get the opportunity to meet with friends and try out new activities that they may have never even considered before. Devised and run by Megan Neilan, plus volunteers such as her parents and Mel and Sue, it strives to prove that age is nothing but a number, and that anyone can do whatever they put their mind to. Megan says “If you can promote independent living and maintain a social life, the brain will stay stronger for longer.”
Golden Years has been proven to work. One of it’s members was discharged from the care system because of the new purpose they found within themselves to go out and do something new and exciting improved their mental health. Another recently had to give up her driving license, but instead of a sad occasion, Golden Years has managed to organise a Ferrari driving experience for her to make her last drive a memorable one!
Megan set up Golden Years after training to be a nurse. She was heartbroken to see the state of the care system, with all its cuts to funding and lack of staff. The long hours prevented her from doing her job as a nurse in the best way she wanted too and also prevented her from looking after her own grandmother, with whom she has a close relationship. Megan decided to do something different and set up her friendship group on the 8th of July 2017 with the idea of getting a few people to find new friends and enjoy some activities. the first meeting was a month later on the 8th of August, and the project has gone leaps and bounds since.
“The biggest risk was their teeth falling out from smiling too much”
The group has gained publicity from local news outlets, because of the impact it had on the elderly community and the fun activities. They’ve gone indoor skydiving and ice skating, destroying the stereotypes that old people can’t really do anything for themselves. There is never any danger, with multiple policies and procedures in place to prevent accidents from happening, and insurance as a back up should the unlikely happen. The members were sceptical of these activities at first but having done them everyone was proud of what they have achieved and have found new confidence in what they can do.
When they decided to try indoor sky diving the risk assessment required nothing to be able to fall from the person. Everyone had a chuckle when they were told they either needed to remove any false teeth or not open their mouth so nothing fell out!
A few upcoming events include drifting at Rockingham Speedway and lorry driving. There is an ambition to have a road trip from one end of the country to the other (Lands End in Cornwall to John O’Groats in Scotland). The group is aimed at over 65’s but is open to younger volunteers who’d like to help. There is a small membership fee but is a lot cheaper than the NHS care and hospice system.
Megan would love to hear from any local businesses who might like to get involved.
For more information, contact: