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Events to Help Combat Loneliness

Mirthy Speaker Initiative
News and community
Posted 05 February 2020
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5th February 2020

Mirthy connects Speakers, typically retired individuals themselves, into retirement homes for interesting talks, to mix residents with those looking for social interactions in the wider community.

At a recent Speaker Event at a McCarthy Stone  Development in Warlingham, Wilf Lower (aged 79) gave his signature talk ‘Don’t Sneeze at the Microphone’, aided by slides and video to add some nostalgia, about the rise of television covering favourites such as Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies and Only Fools and Horses.

Wilf’s early life was surrounded by music hall and variety performers as the family house provided digs for pros appearing at local theatres. Growing up with the stars, the rising stars…and a few fading stars, it was hardly surprising that he acquired an intimate knowledge of the business. Eventually Wilf joined BBC Television where for many years, including the so-called golden period of the seventies and eighties, he was responsible for Scenic Operations - the scenery, props, working the shows, essentially everything seen on the screen except the performers, their costumes and make-up.

Over 20 residents from the Retirement Development came into the lounge to listen to Wilf’s talk, including a non-resident from the local community.

The House Manager, Gill, commented; “The ability for some residents to get out and about is limited, therefore there will be a greater need for in-house events going forward. The talk from Wilf was extremely well received and attended by a couple of residents who do not usually join in with social events, and they both said how much they enjoyed it. We also had a neighbour join us who is visually impaired and fairly isolated in her own home. She has now become friends with several residents here and has invited some of them for afternoon tea.”

We caught up with the local neighbour, Joan; “It’s quite difficult for me because my mobility is not good, so even getting to the local shops is quite difficult. I feel very strongly that whilst you get health issues as you age, the mind doesn’t do you any favours either, because you know mentally you could do other things with a little bit of help. I am partially sighted and have arthritis, so finding something like this initiative that would interest me, keep me active and allow me to be with people of my own age group is really important. Where I live, I’m particularly isolated, I don’t see a soul, which is why I was keen to get involved in something that would get me out.”

“I really enjoyed the talk, it’s always interesting to know what others have done in their lives and what they have achieved. Older people like to know the background of people’s experiences. I think people should be encouraged to talk about their existence. I’d happily contribute a couple pounds to attend something semi regularly”

Mirthy’s goal is to enable older adults to stay active, independent, and improve their ability to interact with others. Through the Speakers platform they bring retired individuals into retirement homes to give interesting talks, mixing residents with the wider community. Mirthy not only benefits residents and older adults in the local area, but have a profound effect on the speakers themselves.

Wilf Lower, the Speaker, commented;  “During my years with BBC Television I was frequently required to make presentations about specific issues, together with talks of a more general nature.  With such experience of public speaking it seemed a useful means to keep my mind active in retirement. People are invariably interested in what others do (or have done) particularly if it's something with which they can relate - such as television or theatre and of course, there's always an element of nostalgia. However, I don't wholly agree with those cynics who claim that upon reaching a certain age, the future is only nostalgia!” 

“I give around a hundred talks a year, many to senior citizen groups, and the feedback from audiences is fascinating, which I often incorporate into my talks. One thing that's become clear over the years is that audiences don't want an academic lecture, they want to be gently informed and entertained!”

Alex Ramamurthy, Co-Founder and CEO at Mirthy, said:
“As part of an Age UK befriending scheme I witnessed the effects that loneliness can have on those in later life. We’re developing the Mirthy platform to ensure no older person has to feel lonely. Our idea is to connect older adults looking for social interactions in the wider community with residents and homeowners within retirement developments and care homes, taking advantage of under-utilised communal spaces. We’re passionate that all individuals in later life should be able to remain active, independent at home, and connected in their local community, and we’re helping to remove the barriers that can be created due to ageing.”

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