Charity breaks age barriers with Sunday tea parties

Fancy a special Sunday tea while helping others? Contact the Elderly is a charity that brings people from different generations together, in order to combat loneliness.

The charity has helped thousands of older people to feel less lonely, promoting friendship among young people and the elderly.

Ladies enjoy the Sunday tea party

Ladies enjoying the Sunday tea party. Photo: Isabel Inman

A recent study in the US found that loneliness is twice as dangerous as obesity for older people’s health, pointed out Trevor Lyttleton, the Founder of Contact the Elderly in an article published by the Huffington Post.

“Spending time with older people who are lonely and isolated can dramatically improve their physical and mental health, according to this research,” Lyttleton wrote in February this year.

“These findings echo our own research into the impact of our simple act of friendship, in helping keep lonely older guests out of hospital and off social services, with 25% less visits to the GP,” can be read.

Contact the Elderly is about encouraging young people to meet older people for tea parties on Sundays. There is a volunteer who picks up the guests in a van, and drives them to the host’s house.

Natalie Wilson is one of the volunteers organising the Sunday tea parties in London. “I started volunteering last October because my boyfriend is a driver in the Islington area. I was not working full time so that gave me flexibility to volunteer in the office every Friday, using my administrating skills.”

Recently, Natalie started working full time so she couldn’t do the Fridays anymore. She still wanted to carry on working in the charity so this month she started coordinating the Sunday tea parties. Her first Sunday meeting was three weeks ago in the Islington area.

“It has been great,” the volunteer says.

“It doesn’t interfere with your social life. It’s one Sunday every month, so why not? You get the chance to see some amazing properties in London that you wouldn’t necessarily go to.”

Natalie’s first Sunday tea was in Islington. The owner of the hosting house, a lawyer called Jonathan who works in the City and is also an art collector, has volunteered to host the tea parties at his house several times over the years.

Contact the Elderly has about 7000 volunteers working in their afternoon tea parties, and 10% have been working in the charity for over 10 years, according to Isabel Inman, the Communications Officer.

“I love working for Contact the Elderly,” Isabel says.

The charity worker also admits that “it’s great to be part of an organisation that is so front line. In the national office we interact with our older guests and volunteers every day and it’s wonderful to hear their stories and see in firsthand what a difference the tea parties make.”

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One of the guests of the tea party having a good time. Photo: Isabel Inman

“It is so important to bridge the intergenerational gap between older and younger people, and so many of our younger volunteers say that the older guests are an inspiration to them. If people gave volunteering a chance I think they would realise that the rewards are so much greater than the time sacrificed.”

People interested in joining the group just need to contact the charity through their website.

Jessica Fino