Celebrating a year of friendship and support
There was a reason to celebrate at Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland recently, when their Joining Forces project celebrated the first birthday of their coffee mornings at their Thorncroft location, about a mile from Leicester station. Here’s what happened on the day.
The reason we’re here
For the uninitiated, Joining Forces is an Armed Forces Fund-Trust supported project to support the wellbeing of older veterans. This support might include helping find out what benefits someone might be entitled to, how to go about applying for a Veterans Badge or medal, and find out more about our telephone befriending scheme.
The power of a cuppa and a chat
In the case of these coffee mornings, they provide a dedicated time and space for veterans to meet likeminded people for a chat. This provides a welcome opportunity for socialising, swapping stories, and celebrating comrades or partners who are no longer with us.
“A lot of older veterans are at risk of becoming isolated and lonely,” explains Michaela Forty, Senior Independent Living Co-ordinator here. “This is a way of getting people together who have shared experiences.”
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A very special guest
Few have more experiences worthy of discussion than Samuel ‘Arthur’ Thompson. The charming 95-year-old usually attends the Loughborough Veterans Coffee Morning at Loughborough Library, but made the trip to Thorncroft with his daughter to join the celebrations.
Arthur, a D-Day veteran, is an inspiration; despite being told in the build up to that fateful day, 6 June 1944, that the average age expectancy of a man in his position was 8 minutes, he’s here with us today, 75 years on, and telling us what makes mornings like this so special.
“Friendship,” says Arthur affectionately. He’s particularly grateful to Owen Jones, Joining Forces Friendship Co-ordinator, who he credits with offering a helping hand at a very difficult time. “He’s encouraged me, because I went down,” reveals Arthur. “I went right to the bottom and I was prepared to give up, but he talked me out of it and brought me round.”
Keeping memories alive
Angela Beales is a volunteer here and the person responsible for the exceptional cake baked for this occasion, which took her almost a week to make. She, too, knows how much mornings like this can do when times get tough. Her husband, Flight Lieutenant Jack Beales, passed away 19 months ago, at the age of 93.
“Helping here has actually helped me through,” explains Angela. “To keep [Jack’s] memory alive, and also help me through a very difficult time. This gives me the opportunity to talk about my husband, but also means that I’m not on my own. I enjoy it, and I hope it can carry on a long time.”
Arthur agrees. “It’s a pleasure to come out and have a chat with other people.”
Watch the video above to see Michaela, Arthur and Angela discussing their experiences of Joining Forces.