Preventing social isolation is top priority for Wellbeing Co-ordinator at Thamesfield

Diary posted

1st November 2019

Thamesfield, Retirement VillagesAccording to Age UK, more than two million people in England over the age of 75 are now living alone. More than one million older people report they go over a month without speaking to family, friends or neighbours.

Luckily, living alone in a retirement village presents tremendous opportunities to break the loneliness chain and get talking.

Working for care provider HC One and Retirement Villages Group, Wellbeing Co-ordinator Valerie Woodill is incredibly passionate about beating loneliness in the elderly.

Valerie works at Thamesfield Village, in Henley-on-Thames and is responsible for organising activities inside and outside the village. Valerie explains: “It’s a very rewarding role. It’s great to bring a smile to the faces of residents by offering a variety of trips and activities. There’s a group activity that takes place every afternoon. That could be anything from word games, water colouring, crosswords, entertainers and more. We even had a visit from some alpacas!”

A survey from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation, revealed more than two in ten adults in the United Kingdom (23%) say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated.

Thamesfield, Retirement Villages

Our villages are well-known for hosting an impressive social calendar whether that’s organised by well-being co-ordinators like Valerie or the Residents Association. It’s evident that this element is a strong win for residents.

Valerie says: “Social isolation is very common among older people so it’s brilliant to see them interacting and keeping their brains active. It’s great for residents to know there is something readily available to attend – and it doesn’t cost them anything. It’s also very reassuring for them to know they will be doing something where they can meet other people.”

After over a year of working in the role, Valerie notes: “The most popular activity is definitely the boat trip – we’re in a very favourable location! Among the other favourites would include pub lunches, afternoon tea, book club shopping trips and the Monday cocktail hour! We’ll have regular activity-goers each day but there are plenty of new faces attending for varying events too.”

Valerie continues: “We will do a trip outside the village once a month via the Henley Handy Bus! There’s also a bus route to Reading or High Wycombe that stops right outside the village too, for residents who are wanting to venture out on a regular basis.

“We hold plenty of events inside the village too, from Christmas and summer parties to croquet competitions, Mad Hatters’ tea parties and quiz nights. And it’s not just the residents who get involved; the staff are known to bring their competitive sides out for these events too!”

Nearly half of the Great British public aged over 65, consider the television or a pet their main source of company, according to BBC Radio 4’s loneliness experiment.

For Valerie, her role satisfies her in many ways: “It’s great to contribute towards putting loneliness at bay. Without these activities, which are held in the lounge, it’s highly likely residents wouldn’t mix together and get out of their apartments. But when they know something is arranged within walking distance – and they don’t have to venture outside in bad weather to get there, a lot of peace of mind is offered.

Thamesfield, Retirement Villages Group

Valerie is certainly well equipped for planning fun-filled activities, she explains: “I genuinely enjoy being with the residents, having fun and making them laugh. The secret to success in this role is most definitely patience, listening, empathy and a good sense of humour!

“This is actually my second role at Thamesfield. I was originally the village concierge but made the move so I could spend more time with the residents.”

Commenting on working at Thamesfield, Valerie explains: “You really can’t beat the setting here – it’s definitely a major selling point for the residents too. Every day I park my car and step out onto the drive and admire the beautiful scenery; the grounds really are astounding. Being right by the river also means benefitting from the views and the various activities that take place on it.

“But overall, I have fun and really it’s my colleagues and the residents that make it for me – we’re all like one big family.”

For more information about Thamesfield, head here.