Top time is had at Felixstowe

GETTING older can mean spending more time alone, but widowhood and living on your own doesn't have to mean loneliness. Today JAMES MARSTON meets a group determined to get the most out of their Golden Years, at an activity session set to expand next month.

GETTING older can mean spending more time alone, but widowhood and living on your own doesn't have to mean loneliness. Today JAMES MARSTON meets a group determined to get the most out of their Golden Years, at an activity session set to expand next month.

YOU wouldn't normally associate the hushed tones of a library with lively chatter.

But at Felixstowe library it's Tuesday afternoon, and time for Top Time. As the group decide on which designs they wish to execute on their glass paintings, there is lively discussion.

Aimed at older people, Top Time is a weekly activity group which is enjoying considerable success.

Offering a range of activities, Top time is held once a week in the library's community room.

Each week Top Time offers the group something different - the programme is varied and includes things like creative writing, talks, theatre, games, salsa, musical recitals, and even Christmas cracker making.

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Linda Mowles, libraries events coordinator, said: “The idea of Top Time is to allow older people access to activities and a chance to meet other people and socialise.

“It was set up in consultation with older people and we asked them what sort of things they would like to do.”

Felixstowe library enquiry officer Anne Wybrow said: “Top Time is a way of keeping people's minds and bodies active. It improves the quality of life and its somewhere to come and form friendships. It's a support group as well as an activities group.”

Such has been the success of Top Time that the Felixstowe model is being rolled out to other libraries across Suffolk.

Linda said: “We are hoping to expand Top Time from September onwards, so every library of reasonable size will be able to offer something to the older generation.”

Felixstowe library's assistant manager Val Bowers said Top Time is open to the over 60s very Tuesday of the year.

She said: “Top Time was initially aimed at older people who live alone as a means of socialising. It started in January this year and it has grown and grown. It's free and you can dip in and out as you please.

“It's good fun and something we had wanted to do here for a long time. There's a lovely buzz from the people that come along.”

For Jean Hughes, walking in to Top Time for the first time was the hardest part.

She said: “I was widowed last year. It is awful when it happens to you. We had been together for so long and it was very difficult to cope with. I didn't really think it was happening.”

Jean has turned to Top Time to take her mind off her sorrow and keep meeting people.

She said: “You just have to get on with life and that is what I have done. I have had computer lessons here as well and I know it sounds corny but at 78 I didn't think I would be able to enjoy doing things as much as I have without my husband. We did everything together so I've thrown myself into things like this and I can look to the future now.”

For 86-year-old Joan Carpenter, Top Time is a way of getting out of the house and meeting new people.

The retired nurse from Cobbold Road, Felixstowe said: “I used the library a bit as I read quite a lot. When I saw Top Time advertised I thought it would be fun to join in with things. I come once a week and it's a way of getting out and about and meeting new people.”

As Joan prepared a design of flowers to paint, she added: “I really enjoy it ands the library staff are very helpful. As you get older it can be difficult to keep active but this keeps me busy.”

Gerda Bailey, 78, of High Road, Trimley St Martin, said she heard about Top Time at a coffee morning in the village. She added: “I wanted to meet other people and socialise so I thought I would give it a try. This is my third time here and I've really enjoyed it.”

Someone pops the kettle on and the group take a break from their work.

Student Victoria Haddow, 18, said: “I help out here during the holidays. It's really good fun working with older people. They are very enthusiastic and just full of life. They love what they are doing.”

Jean, of Fen Meadow, Trimley St Mary, said it would be easy to become isolated and switch off from the world around you.

She added: “There are other people in the same position and I have made some good friends through Top Time. Last week we just played games. I didn't think I'd enjoy it much but we had a lovely afternoon.”

Something the group has learned to look forward to Top Time provides them all with something they need - time with other people and time out of their homes.

Graham Knight, 87, of Cliff Road, Felixstowe, said: “My wife has dementia and is in a home in Felixstowe. I live on my own now. Top Time was suggested to me by adult and community services at Suffolk County Council as a way to get out of the house.

“Living on your own can get depressing at times but I enjoy coming here. Sometimes I think I might not bother but once I make the effort I always think it was worth it.”

Have you benefited from Top Time? Do you have a group that is your lifeline? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

For more information about Top Time call Felixstowe Library on 01394 625766.

FOR too long the older generation has been overlooked as people suffer care homes closing, dwindling pensions, hospital wards closing, and not enough carers in the community.

Our Golden Years series aims to make sure that the older years really are Golden Years.

We will:

Listen to our older generation.

Fight for dignity in old age.

Make sure older people get the voice they need to raise the topics that matter to them.

Crusade on issues affecting pensioners.

Inform older people about the help and assistance available for them.

Dig out those inspirational stories that show old age need not be the barrier to a fulfilled and active life.

Champion achievement

If you have a story for Golden Years, call the newsdesk on 01473 324788 or email or write to The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

1 - choose a design

2 - transfer the design to acetate sheet using an outliner pen.

3 - have a break and wait for the outliner to dry.

4 - paint in the template using special glass paints.