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Meet the Islington volunteers who party with over-75s to beat loneliness

PUBLISHED: 07:39 12 April 2017

Contact the Elderly's tea party in Cloudesley Street on Sunday. From left: Stephanie Van De Werve, Alice Gibbons, Max Parmentier, Gaelle Blondeau and Kate McFarlane. Picture: Dieter Perry

Contact the Elderly's tea party in Cloudesley Street on Sunday. From left: Stephanie Van De Werve, Alice Gibbons, Max Parmentier, Gaelle Blondeau and Kate McFarlane. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

For many, Sundays are a chance to unwind with friends and family. But for some elderly people that just makes it seem all the more lonely.

Contact the Elderly's tea party in Cloudesley Street on Sunday. Joan Napolitano, 98, with Max Parmentier. Picture: Dieter PerryContact the Elderly's tea party in Cloudesley Street on Sunday. Joan Napolitano, 98, with Max Parmentier. Picture: Dieter Perry

Hoping to ease that isolation are five groups of volunteers who organise monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties across Islington for over-75s.

The groups each put on one party a month. Every group splits hosting duties between up to 10 people so it’s never too big a burgen on one.

The charity behind them – Contact the Elderly – has been working here since 1971. Support officer Adam Butler, 32, told the Gazette: “The more we can do this, the better it is. We’re hoping to develop a group in the Holloway area too. Anyone 75 or over feeling lonely can refer themselves to us or ask someone to get in touch on their behalf.”

Acting chief exec Cliff Rich believes the charity is combating some of the challenges faced by elderly people in this part of the capital. “London can sometimes be a very lonely city and people can often feel cut off from their community,” he said.

Contact the Elderly's tea party in Cloudesley Street on Sunday. Clockwise from left: Gaelle Blondeau, Max Parmentier, Alice Gibbons, Abraao Windgron, Frederic Iweins, Maina Gerniawsky, Michelline Newell, Stephanie Van De Werve, Kate McFarlane, Joan Napolitano and Dana Windgron. Picture: Dieter PerryContact the Elderly's tea party in Cloudesley Street on Sunday. Clockwise from left: Gaelle Blondeau, Max Parmentier, Alice Gibbons, Abraao Windgron, Frederic Iweins, Maina Gerniawsky, Michelline Newell, Stephanie Van De Werve, Kate McFarlane, Joan Napolitano and Dana Windgron. Picture: Dieter Perry

“We bring company, friendship and conversation back into the lives of older people who live alone and don’t have family or friends nearby.”

Plans to widen the charity’s reach are reliant on the contribution of volunteers, who help host and transport guests.

Stéphanie van de Werve, 29, has been hosting tea parties since September 2016 at her home near Angel. “It’s a great service,” she said. “There are many people who would like to host these tea parties, but we don’t have enough people able to collect the elderly people and take them home.”

That means many are missing out – and not just the party guests. “It’s really rewarding,” said Stéphanie. “They’re from all sorts of backgrounds; it’s a big melting pot and a nice blend of different views and cultures. You learn something.”


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