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10 minutes with…. Anne-Marie, Outreach and Community Development Officer, Age UK East London

Anne-Marie from Age UK tells us about activities for over 50’s in E3, including an LGBT group, gardening and knitting 1000 tiny beanie hats for bottles of drinks!

Can you tell us a bit about your role at Age UK?

I work in Community Development and Outreach for Age UK East London, working on the Linkage Plus project. The role involves offering support and activities to the over-50s in the E3 area of Tower Hamlets, with the aim of improving their wellbeing and reducing isolation.

Among other things, we run a gardening club at the Older People’s Garden in Mile End Park and host coffee mornings, ESOL conversation classes and energetic Chair Disco sessions (otherwise known as seated aerobics!) around Bow and Mile End.

We also do outreach sessions in GP surgeries which we try to have fun with; for example, we have a pop-up E3 Knit and Natter session at the GP’s surgery in the Bromley-by-Bow Centre. Reception staff and GPs know that we’re there offering support and advice for the over-50s, and can direct people our way if they feel that the patient might benefit from social activities. And you don’t have to be on your way to the doctor’s to join the group – we now have people coming regularly just to learn to knit and to enjoy the banter at the session.

What are your favourite parts of job?

I love connecting with local organisations with similar aims and finding out ways to work with them. As none of us have huge marketing budgets it’s often hard to find out about what’s on locally – working together makes it easier for us to provide a joined-up service to residents.

So, for example, I’m working with Stepney City Farm, Tower Hamlets Community Transport and local care provider Creative Support in order to bring isolated, mobility-impaired people to the Furry Tales animal handling sessions at the farm.

Working alone, we had people who couldn’t get to the sessions, sessions without enough people attending, and 12-seater community minibuses underused during the day. Once we started networking it all came together, and we’ll be taking local elders fortnightly to the sessions starting 27th January, which is great.

 

What are some of the activities and events have you got coming up?

We have a monthly LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) group which is getting off the ground – we meet on 2nd Wed of the month for a coffee and cake at Muxima in Roman Road. Muxima is a lovely space and they’re really supportive.

We’re organising a jumble sale on 4 February and the E3 Knit and Natter group is knitting 1000 hats for Innocent Smoothies. For every hat knitted, Innocent will donate 25p to local Age UK East London projects. We’ll be exhibiting the hats at the Methodist Church at 522 Old Ford Road, with a private view on 7th March at 1.30-3pm.

 

What would you say to people who haven’t been to the activities before or are feeling nervous about going on their own?

As an introvert myself, I understand how difficult new social situations can be for some people. We’re happy to meet with people first to explain more about the service and our activities, and can even accompany people to sessions to help them feel more comfortable. Get in touch with us on 020 7183 3032 and we’ll see what we can do.

Finally, what do you love about Poplar and Bow?

I’ve lived here for ten years now and I love the mid-century, brutalist architecture around Poplar, such as Balfron Tower and Robin Hood Gardens. The community aspect is improving as well: Jayne at The Cabin on the Brownfield Estate has done amazing things with the space, and they now have a choir, bellydancing lessons, Zumba and loads more, and it’s really affordable.

I also love E3, where Age UK East London is based: it’s a great mix of pie’n’mash shops, a cracking clothes market and lovely, arty cafes and wine bars. Everyone comes together for the Roman Road festival: Age UK East London did bingo calling and judged a knobbly knees contest and our art groups decorated paper plates to hang from the trees near the Idea Store. It was a great day. There’s lots of community spirit on the Roman!