EF is a lady in her late 70’s who initially came into our café for a cup of coffee. Staff had said hello to her previously and exchanged pleasantries but had not engaged any further. One day when she visited our Community Development Coordinator, Sarah, noticed she had been crying. Sarah asked EF if she would like some privacy, she agreed so Sarah took her into a quiet room, got her a coffee and asked if she wanted to talk. EF said she had just moved into the area with her husband whose eyesight was deteriorating to the point where he would soon be registered blind. EF said she was desperately lonely and felt overwhelmed by everything as she has several medical conditions of her own and her mobility was causing her issues. Sarah recognised that a slow, steady approach with EF would be best, so invited her back for coffee the following day where she introduced her to another staff member, Leah, so they could work together to offer  the best possible support to EF.

Meadow Well Cafe

At first Sarah and Leah would meet with EF just so she could get out of the house, but gradually she began to trust them and they were able to get her involved with other parts of the project. EF confided that she felt so overwhelmed by everything and that it would be better if she “wasn’t here”. Staff took this disclosure very seriously, offering to refer EF to specialist agencies to help with her mental health but EF reassured us that she was not a danger to herself, she just felt so lonely and isolated that sometimes she said things in the spur of the moment. Staff proceeded carefully ringing her on the days she didn’t come into the centre to check she was OK. She later told them that she really appreciated these calls because she didn’t want to feel like a burden but enjoyed speaking to us and felt that we genuinely cared about her.

After a few weeks of this type of contact, we introduced EF to our gardens, her health meant she was not able to volunteer in the garden but she thoroughly enjoyed spending time outdoors with our garden team and felt that it had a very positive effect on her mental wellbeing as she is a keen gardener and donated some of her own plants and flowers to our gardens. She said the time she spent in our gardens  inspired her to work on her own and accepted that whilst she could only do small bits of it at a time, it made her happy to do that and not as upset when she looked out of her window and saw an overgrown garden.

Sarah introduced EF to our social support group, Positive Pathways, which she visited to play bingo, do quizzes, enjoy a Christmas meal and most importantly socialise with a wide range of people, helping EF feel less lonely.

We also recommended EF attend a falls prevention programme, Falling on Your Feet, and despite initial apprehension, she really enjoyed it and it improved her mobility .Through this group she attended various events even taking part in a showcase performance of the programme at our Partner Dinner. The group also attended theatre performances.

EF told Sarah that we made her feel “less of a stupid old woman”, over time we discovered that during her working life, EF had been a very respected medical professional but circumstances meant she’d had to leave work and her own health had suffered. EF credits the centre staff for helping her gain confidence, meet new friends, feel less lonely but more than anything, for listening to her and giving her time.