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An afternoon with the Islington Pensioners Forum Islington Pensioners - Image Credit: islington Pensioners Forum Full view

An afternoon with the Islington Pensioners Forum

I felt quite nervous, before my lunch with the Islington Pensioners Forum, but the worries I had of intimidation  vanished as soon as I walked in the room. The homely atmosphere was somewhat reassuring: plates were being laid out, tea was being brewed and, in the corner, placards were being coloured in.

“Our main interest is in campaigning,” Chairman George Durack told me when I asked about what the Islington Pensioners Forum do. He points over to the placards, which he then tells me were for an NHS demonstration, in which some members of the Forum marched in.

Treasurer, Eric Hill, explained why: “One of our biggest concerns right now is government attitudes towards social care.” A number of members dressed as skeletons at the demonstration, as there have been on several marches, he explains. It certainly makes a point.

One of the Forum’s main areas of work is in combating loneliness: “We are trying to contact residents associations to get a handle on loneliness,” Eric added. “In days gone by, families lived closer, but what we are dealing with now is a real lack of community.” This, they all agreed, is where the problem of loneliness really begins.

“We send out our newsletter to act as a sort of lifeline for those who can’t get out, because of disability or otherwise,” Bronwen Handyside, another member, tells me. “It’s so necessary, we’re very aware there are huge numbers of elderly people in London who live alone.”

Whilst in the past, neighbourhoods sought to look after their elderly, new residents just don’t have the same established loyalties. Bronwen tells me that in many cases this is because the working class communities that once thrived here simply cannot afford it anymore. New neighbours can be intimidating for elderly people, making it easier to become withdrawn.

“It even comes down to there not being as many postmen or milkmen about anymore,” Bronwen explained. “What used to be a great community link just is not as big now. We are here to try and get that community back.”

The Forum runs weekly bingo, lunches and workshops to help make London life accessible for the elderly, and there are more reasons for this than you might think. As we were nearing the end of our lunch, George Durack said: “It’s up to us to leave a standard behind so that when younger generations grow old, they are valued and treated well. It’s about what older generations did for us, and what we are doing too.”

Written by Molly Long

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