At our last Skype Meeting Marie asked me about my thinking and what had led me to proposing a new group through the U3A.
It had always been my intention to work when we moved home to Somerset from Buckinghamshire. At first I planned to continue my Adlerian (Individual Psychology) therapeutic and supervisory practice and I did commute back to Buckinghamshire for a while as well as advertising locally for new clients.
My work has always been important to me as I felt it defined me, gave me status and a place and I was keen to hold on to my definition of Me. It gave me an explanation of my life, my interests and my work. Looking back I remember that I wanted to internalise my knowledge of Adler, to know it so well that I could work with it fluently as a good pianist plays a piano – instinctively, just knowing what to do. Working towards that end and having a part time job too was challenging and I often described myself as ‘riding two horses’. I took on a lot of responsibility for home and work and had high expectations of what I could achieve. I knew I could not afford to do what I wanted full time so I had to take on other paid work to ensure that I could do what I was passionate about.
Looking back I think this was a pattern in my life always having to compromise what I really wanted to happen in order to keep family and home running smoothly.
My other job was working for a homeless charity called Connection based in Oxford who had bid for a project with Bucks County Council called Prevention Matters. This project was a pilot aimed at isolated elderly people in the community and helping them to engage with social activities, at a time when many of the Day Care centres were closing, bus routes were being cut along with many other services. At the same time the initiative of Healthy Ageing was being promoted; eating well, exercising, remaining socially connected, volunteering and life long learning. Many of the people referred to me were partners of people with Alzheimers or similar who were carers and had very little time for themselves. The role presented many challenges. I became frustrated with the manipulation of figures to support various actions, the focus being on collecting information through assessments rather than meeting the needs of the individuals.
Moving house was a result of my husbands early retirement on the grounds of his health and due to changes at the Department of Employment it became very complicated and stressful. This was not helping him or me and I suggested that we sell our house and move so that we no longer had a mortgage. It took a while to get the house ready to put on the market and find where we wanted to go, we checked out a lot of places but finally decided on Williton and moved here at the end of June 2017.
A lot of thought and care went into the criteria for our home. I had learned a lot from my work with the elderly in Buckinghamshire and applied this in our selection. Williton has good communications and is well serviced, as a small town it has a Drs, Library, supermarket, Butchers, Bank, etc., The sea is a 2-3 mile walk across the fields. There is beautiful scenery and it lies mainly on flat ground so that my husband is able to walk into the town and back. His mobility has declined since we arrived but following a stay in hospital earlier this year, the aftercare and investigations that we carried out have resulted in a greater quality of life for him. (Hospital care here is excellent).
As one of the women caught up in the changes of pension age for women, I was adversely hit by having to plan to receive my pension age 6 years later than the original contract with the government. My sisters health which had been poor for some years worsened and after a complex and stressful time she was allowed to return home from hospital and stopping dialysis was able to die naturally at home with her children.
My husbands parents both 90 this year have also been faced with change. My amazing mother in law has looked after dad as he has battled with dementia but a short while ago had to accept she could no longer cope as his health had deteriorated too much. He went into a home a few days before her 90th birthday. They started as close friends aged 5 and have rarely been apart and now she is living alone. An amazing role model, she does her housework in the morning before driving to visit dad at the home then returns home, has lunch and a rest before preparing an evening meal and baking cakes. She has a great enthusiasm for life and is always interested in what is going on.
I see similar experiences represented in my community here in Somerset. It is an interesting mix, there are couples that retire here, buying a bungalow to live out their days, a few widowers and a lot of widows many of whom were the carers for their husband. There are the holiday makers that arrive around Easter time and leave as soon as the children return to school apart from the walkers who linger on exploring the coast path, the Quantocks or Exmoor. The locals who have been born and bred here who are friendly and warm, always saying hello to newcomers. A good friend of mine is the carer for her husband who broke his neck in a motorbike accident and is wheelchair bound.
It was important to both of us to engage actively with the local community, both of us having a different approach to this. My husband loves pub life, the place where you can meet people, put the world to rights over a few beers and develop friendships. He also takes an interest in the role of pubs in the community and how closure can create social isolation so is active within CAMRA at identifying Pubs of particular community interest and having them officially identified a such in order to continue to support the community. We both do pub quizzes together and Mick is a member of our local pub quiz team in the local league. He has also recently become a member of the U3A
As far as possible we have taken on the main aspects of Healthy Ageing. We are socially active, engaged in our local community, eat healthily and engage in lifelong learning together and separately. I also am a member of a walking group and attend yoga classes.
I had explored a number of voluntary roles but despite a CRB check made by the local council and a raft of on-line training to meet the requirement, nothing has been forthcoming and I have become frustrated in pursuit of this.
Over the last couple of months I have had people asking my advice about how to handle family situations from a mental health aspect and am finding that through word of mouth people are being referred to me. Some of this is becoming paid work but often it is advice about how to engage with mental health services and or education. Equally some of the people I have described in my community are challenged by crisis events and I am learning that by taking part in the community I am becoming known and trusted. I am no longer an unknown quantity.
As a national organisation the U3A (University of the Third Age) a registered charity, have been approached to see what they can do to support the ageing communities further. Minehead U3A has over 300 members and is growing however many of their members do not attend coffee mornings or groups and have therefore approached Williton and Watchet combined, where a large number of members live, to see if some events can be run more locally, particularly as Williton has a brand new Pavillion which is a very suitable venue. In addition we have been encouraged to start up new local groups to encourage active participation from existing and new members.
I joined the U3A shortly after moving here and am part of a book group in Minehead (I have written about this separately). Interested in seeing more local groups develop I did not want to attend another book club or change the one I’m with. I considered for a long time what I would like to do.
The idea of a Conversation Café arose from one of our Skype Group Meetings where I asked for some ideas of how to engage with the community following some frustrating attempts and the group came to my aid as usual. The focus is something we discussed in depth within our Research Group looking at Community Interest and community feeling. I would love to promote Adler and his theories of social interest and how far this extends, give people the chance to talk together about their experiences and views and what they would like to see happen. I hope it will be cathartic and give a voice to people but ultimately I hope it will generate movement and action. Maybe it will create change, maybe ideas, maybe it will strengthen a community by forming links, maybe a paper. It will be interesting to see.
Working with the U3A does mean that the group will be advertised through the website and newsletter also local advertising. It will also be sent to a group of people who see the U3A as a means to life long learning and research.
For more on this see the section under U3A Conversation Cafe.
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