Meet the Team from our Charity Partner: Blackfriars Positive Ageing Group

Polaris’ Charity Partner, Blackfriars Settlement is a charity aimed to support community services and those that need help the most. Since 2019, we’ve been raising funds and supporting their Positive Ageing groups, helping members who are 60+, and living in the Lambeth and Southwark area – some of whom have disabilities. The group hold weekly meet-ups at their centre, keeping their members active and encouraging being social through a range of activities.

Tina Johnston and Sieglinde Cosias, members of the Positive Ageing groups, recently met up with the Polaris team to share more about the initiative and how it is helping the local community.

Interview with Tina and Sieglinde:

How long have you been at Blackfriars?

Tina: “I’ve been working at Blackfriars for 24 years now. For the last 22 years, I’ve been the Lead for Positive Ageing, but altogether, it’s been 24 years that I’ve been a part of this community.”

Sieglinde: “I started doing a few hours of admin-related work at Blackfriars 10 years ago, and it eventually developed into a full-time role as a Positive Ageing officer.”

Tina and Sieglinde have a combined 34 years of experience working at Blackfriars.

Tell us a little bit about the members

Tina: “Our members love company – they just want to tell you all about their lives. Sometimes, they do not have much contact with their families, so coming here is important for them. It can be tough for those whose children do not come to see them, so we make sure to make them feel important when they are here.”

What sessions do you put on for the members?

Tina: “Every day except Saturday there is something happening for the local community and members take some responsibility to run some of the clubs.

On Mondays, there’s Franks Club, where men can enjoy games such as pool, darts, table tennis, cards, and dominos.

On Tuesdays, there is the Forget Me Not Club which focuses on memory crosswords, word searches and puzzles. Wednesdays are for arts and crafts, with an art teacher who is 91 years old and doubles up as a yoga teacher!

Thursdays offer an osteopathy clinic, which does free osteopath sessions for the members, hairdressing services twice a month, and chair-based yoga. Members enjoy a freshly cooked two-course meal and there is always an afternoon activity.

Friday is Blind Club, which supports visually impaired members of the community, providing companionship and support.”

“When they walk through the door, my message to them is you don’t have a disability, we are your eyes and we are your support, you are safe.”

Sieglinde: “Mostly men attend our Sunday club, as many of them are widowers and this generation of men may not have much experience cooking. So having a Sunday lunch is a big help for them”.

What else do you help them with?

Sieglinde: “Well, our members know they can come to us whenever they need anything, whether it helps with the computer or getting a freedom pass. We have even got an IT volunteer who is great at talking to people and has helped a member pay their bills. Though recently it turned out that a member was receiving bills they shouldn’t have been getting in the first place, we’re here to support them in every way we can.”

Can you tell us about the Befriending Service?

Tina: “The befriending service is like magic. We take the time to train our volunteers and make sure that they are safe for our members. We select a volunteer who we think will suit each individual member and introduce them to each other. They might meet up for a cup of tea or go for a walk together.”

“During COVID, we made over 200 calls and sent out goodie bags to those in need. Now that COVID is over, some members still want phone calls. To me, it shows how important this service really is.”

How has Polaris helped with the Befriending Service?

“We’ve been fortunate enough to receive support from Polaris volunteers for our befriending service. They make weekly calls to our members, a great way to combat loneliness and provide regular friendly conversation.”

Why do you like working for the Positive Ageing Group?

“To us, it’s like we are chosen to do this job – I will never find another Siggy and the same with our befriending officers. Our commitment is such that we know the community that comes to us is well looked after.”

What do members think of the Positive Ageing groups?

Sieglinde: “Well, one of our members, a lovely lady, comes to our Positive Ageing groups every Wednesday and she absolutely loves it! She only stays for a couple of hours, has a cup of tea, a piece of cake and chats with her friends. It’s her favourite day of the week to visit us.”

“Another member, a gentleman who is visually impaired, calls Tina every Friday night when he gets home and expresses his gratitude to her.”

Tina: “I always know it’s him every week! He always says thank you”

How do the volunteers contribute to the Positive Ageing groups?

Tina: “Our Blackfriars volunteers go above and beyond. One member is going through cancer treatment and one of our amazing volunteers, goes to the hospital every other Tuesday to offer support and be there for them.”

“We’re also taking 44 of our members, including 6 who are visually impaired, on not just one, but two seaside trips! It’s going to be wonderful, but we could really use some more volunteers to help support our members.”

If you would like to volunteer or support the Positive Ageing group you can get in touch with them here

To read more about the charity and how you can support it, click here

Read about the Polaris and CGI 2023 Easter special – Kitchen Takeover at Blackfriars here