Barnet Seniors Association Spring Assembly 2017

Ageing Well in Barnet

About 100 old people sitting on chairs and holding up their hands
See the Flickr album of photos

It was “full house” on the 31st May, when about 220 of our older Barnet residents descended on Woodhouse College, to celebrate another of BSA’s fabulous events.
Most knew what to expect: excellent speakers, chair exercises, a free lunch and much more. Apart from anything else, it allowed our visitors to meet-up with familiar faces, and make new friends, over a cup of tea/coffee. It was also an essential outing for those who experience loneliness. And the opportunity to browse amongst the many stall holders, to find some much needed information, as well as helpful assistance.

Our chair, Nila Patel, welcomed everybody and also thanked the stall holders for their contributions. Having then made the introductions, the opening of the Assembly was made by The Deputy Mayor designate, Cllr Valerie Duschinsky, accompanied by Cllr Hugh Rayner. Valerie thanked BSA for their invitation, and gave a short speech in which she mentioned all of the good work being done to an ageing society and the new challenges facing them and those who looked after them.

Of course, the major part of the event was provided by our dedicated speakers, the main of whom was Dr Catherine Loveday, Principal Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience at Westminster University. And her topic was, “Ageing well.” Although Catherine started her research at the age of 21, she feels that it is more relevant now. Having spent four years studying “brain and memory”, and having an elderly mother, she is especially keen in finding out “what helps us to age well?” How does the brain change with age, and how can we help it to do better? She notes important facts, such as that the brain adapts over time; whatever we do, it constantly changes to suit that particular situation. There is actually a balance between genes and environment. The brain progresses and changes rapidly from birth, but through life, there can be some “pruning”; although parts die along the way, there is actually some new growth in old age.

Catherine repeated, that “memory research is my thing”, and knows that what worries most people is short term memory loss, and possible dementia. Of course, a lot of similar symptoms originate from non-demential sources e.g. old age always shows some forgetfulness, as do some of the pills that we might be taking. That does not automatically mean that we are suffering from dementia. The main theme of her very thorough talk was to consider the five important (in her opinion) attitudes to ageing:
1. The brain is always changing.
2. Consider nutrition and physical health.
3. Sleep and the association of stress.
4. Training the brain.
5. Finally, LONELINESS. It’s a killer.
All of the above items were discussed at great length, and it was a most informative lecture. Having fortified our brains with the above, it was time for fifteen minutes of chair-bound exercises “to music”, with the help of Wendy Nutman, from AgeUK Barnet. I must say that she seemed to wake up most of my body, and it was most invigorating; my joints are still in recovery mode.

Mid-day was “Reaching Out” time, when Matthew Kendell (Director of Adults and Communities) spoke about Adult Social Care, and commented on some of the items mentioned by Dr Loveday, and stated that in his role, he meets many people and one has to have proper conversations with everybody. It might be personal and include needs from the council. He said that we all have to work together to ensure that Barnet is a good place to age in. And: “less forms and more chat!”. Three speakers were then introduced, who were allowed to speak for ten minutes each, about their particular project:
Richard Peart spoke about the High Barnet Good Neighbour Scheme which started in 1984, and specializes in transportation; getting the elderly to their clinics, shops, GP’s etc. At the moment, they have about 100 clients and 20 volunteers. There is also a recently commenced befriending section, which can also offer advice, concerning local activities etc.
Helen Newman was from AgeUK Barnet, and advised us of the numerous areas of assistance that they cover. There are lots of social activities, including tea dances, coffee mornings, exercise classes, etc. Not to forget their “What’s On” newsletter, and informative leaflets. Helen also mentioned that loneliness for the over-75’s was “out of control.”
Our own Peter Cragg was proud to announce that this was “our tenth assembly”, and said that people sometimes ask him: “What does the BSA do?” “Well, not the usual tea dances, but we believe in working in partnership with others, such as the Council and NHS, to improve conditions for the residents of Barnet. There is no membership fee, but any donation is welcome, small or large. We also distribute 8,000 printed copies of our “Insider” newsletter, plus 4,000 more by email. New volunteers are always needed to help expand the distribution of this popular item”.

There was then an hour’s break for our delicious, complementary buffet lunch, and networking opportunities: diaries at the ready!

Many of our visitors stayed-on after lunch to hear the final talk, by Rosy Price, Volunteer Coordinator, from Silver Line. This, of course, is the wonderful “hot line” established by Esther Rantzen in 2013. It is open 24/7; based in Blackpool, but with its HQ in London. So far, they have been mainly funded by receiving £5m yearly from the Lottery, but this might cease. Silver Line deals with the over 55’s, who may be experiencing the loss of a spouse, loneliness, finance problems, friendship, advice or whatever. They are there to help at any time, either by phone or email.

The day’s event was almost over, but Peter Cragg had allowed four of the stall holders to give a few minutes talk about their organizations, followed by a few questions from the audience. So, we had Janet from “Advocacy Barnet”, Andrew from “JDA”, Ann from “Freemantle” and a representative from “Mind and Mood.”

Nila Patel thanked everybody for coming and the assembly closed at 2.15, although there were still quite a few people chatting around the stall holders.

One could sum it up as having been a relaxing, interesting, informative, successful and very worthwhile four hours!

Melvin Gamp 3rd June 2017