Hundreds of over 50s from across Essex attended an activity fair in Colchester on Saturday, to find out about the range of community activities and events available to older people in Essex. The ‘Big Week’ of activities was organised by older people’s charity Independent Age in partnership with Colchester Borough Council, with the aim of encouraging older people in Essex to get active and meet new people.
The ‘Big Week’, in which older adults attended a range of workshops including Pilates, how to make handmade clothing, and beginners’ ukulele, culminated in a final festival this weekend.
Kate Hardy, Caseworker for Independent Age in Essex, said: “After a long two years, in which many older people have felt isolated and lonely, it was great to see so many come out and discover the services and activities that are on offer right on their doorstep. It was truly a joy seeing people from across Essex come together and make new friends - all while getting active and trying out new hobbies that hopefully many keep up!”
The festival featured stalls, taster sessions, and demonstrations from local organisations, groups and providers from across Colchester. Stalls from organisations including Independent Age,Strollercise, and Essex Wildlife Trust offered older people advice and information on how to access services and join local initiatives. Local charity Green Doctor offered people advice on how to keep warm and save money on energy bills, while Colchester Borough Council’s Digital Access team introduced their free digital awareness courses available to older adults in Essex.
As part of the Big Week’s aim to encourage older people to be active, there were also several sports sessions on offer. Attendees took advantage of the sunny weather by enjoying a Walking Football tournament, hosted by Colchester United Football Club. Dance Network Association organised dance workshops, with all moves designed to be Dementia and Parkinson’s-friendly.
Julianna, 65 who attended the event with her husband Mic, 74, said: “I loved the fair and all the activities, especially the dancing. It’s given me confidence to come out and speak to people. I’d like to learn about dance but I’m not all that good. Though, I’m one of those people who won’t give in – I’m willing to try and do what I can!”
Elsewhere during the day, local cultural organisations hosted practical sessions to introduce visitors to new hobbies. The team at the award-winning Mercury Theatre put on a drama workshop. Voices in Harmony choir performed a series of well-known songs before encouraging those new to singing to join in on a taster rehearsal.
Councillor Beverley Oxford, Portfolio Holder for Communities at Colchester Borough Council said: “This event was a true testament to all that Colchester has to offer and I would like to say a big thanks to all our local organisations and charities who took part. Older people have been particularly impacted by the pandemic so it is important to have events like these to help reconnect these people with their community.”
Independent Age’s community services team in Essex is focussed on connecting people aged 65+ with other people with similar interests and experiences, including locally-based friendship volunteers; activities in their own communities and other local services that can be of help. The charity also provides grant funding to community-based organisations that help older people, particularly those facing money worries or inequalities, to live happy and connected lives. Essex is one of three areas of the country where the charity is rolling out its new local grant funding programme, and as part of this Independent Age plans to distribute £750,000 over the next two years to help develop partnerships and build capacity among community organisations.
For more information on the support available and opportunities to volunteer with the team, see Community Services | Independent Age.