St Thomas Church in Lancaster is reaching the elderly through its expanding Lyrics and Lunch network group; sharing fun, friendship and food with those living with dementia and their carers.
Experts say loneliness is bad for health and can shorten life by up to 15 years and older people, especially in winter, are some of the most vulnerable.
'Lyrics and Lunch', founded in 2013, is a small but growing network of groups, including Skerton St Chad’s Church and St John’s, Sandylands.
For someone living with dementia, positive social interaction is vital in stimulating the brain and can slow the progress of the disease. For the many full-time carers supporting someone with dementia it is a great relief to get out and spend enjoyable time with others.
At Lyrics and Lunch the model is 'Fun, Food and Friendship' with an emphasis on singing together. Because of the pandemic, currently the group is taking the right precautions and has lowered risks by avoiding group singing; but shares music and has fun through chair-based exercise.
Group founder and leader Jeanette Main says: “As a support group we can still meet through lockdown if we work hard to make it as Covid-secure as possible. We do have to bear in mind that we are supporting some of the most vulnerable people so we have to weigh up the pros and cons of meeting,
“We try to reach people in other ways too, with recordings of our group singing on DVDs; activity packs; online or DVD celebrations such as ‘Holiday at Home’ and Remembrance Day; letters, phone calls and occasional doorstep chats.”
Jeanette also wants to encourage everyone over these darker, colder days, especially around Christmas, to look out for the elderly around us.
“A card to say we’re thinking of you, a brief doorstep chat, phone call, offer to collect shopping, or even a passing wave through a window can make them feel cared for. Small gestures really make a difference.”
Pictures, Steve Pendrill Photography
The work of Lancashire parishes (including St Thomas') in supporting communities during the pandemic has also featured in a series of videos from The Church of England in Lancashire. These videos were first featured as part of a recent livestreamed Diocesan Conference: ‘#HomeGrown: Hearts on Fire with Love for You’.
The 'road trip' sequences, presented by Rev Sam Cheesman, the Bishop’s Chaplain, have been edited into separate short films by Jim Cooke of Centreline Films. One of the films visits St Thomas' and includes an interview with Jeanette Main (quoted above). Watch the video by clicking below ...
Ronnie Semley, November 2020; updated December 2020