LIFE begins at 89 for one Morpeth pensioner who has found a range of new interests after visiting a local day centre.
Meg Watson, who is 90 in March, was fearful of becoming lonely and housebound as she suffered increasing mobility problems.
But help was close at hand in the form of the St John Ambulance Northumbria day centre in Ashington, and for the past ten months Mrs Watson has been enjoying weekly visits.
A minibus service ensures she can reach the facility, and now more people can benefit from the centre’s support as extra pick-up points have been added to the route.
Mrs Watson said: “I’ve always lived a busy life and was one of those people who went out and did lots, but lately I can’t get out and about on my own — put it this way, I don’t need a drink to fall over.
“Without the day centre I would sit at home, see no one and do nothing, and for a chatterbox like me it’s not good to have no one to talk to.
“Although it’s in Ashington and I live in Morpeth, it’s so easy to get there. The day centre sends a minibus that picks me up in the morning and drops me home in the evening — it couldn’t be simpler, and the drivers are so lovely and helpful. As soon as the bus arrives, I relax and forget all my troubles.”
The charity runs the centre, as well as facilities in Shiremoor and Berwick, to combat social isolation.
It serves as a lifeline for users, who are among the most vulnerable in society with many being disabled, elderly or living on their own, and also provides respite for relatives and carers.
A range of activities are available, as well as meals.
Mrs Watson said: “I’ve tried so many new things — we do bowling, curling, singing, dancing, bingo and gardening. I’m looking forward to a trip to the nursery soon. We’re going to buy some little plants to put in the garden.
“The other day we had an entertainer come in and we were all singing and dancing. Two of the drivers dressed up as the Andrews Sisters, it was so funny. I danced the twist. I also do keep-fit to music, but the trouble is the dinners are so good I put on weight.
“I feel safe coming here. I call it The Club. The girls are so lovely and they all look after me. I love sitting down for a big lunch with all my friends. I would come every day if I could, and I would recommend it to anyone.
“Nothing is too much trouble for the staff. The day centre is a life-saver.”
Centre Manager Sharon Scott said: “Meg’s story is so typical of so many who use the day centres. For many, this is the only company our users have from one week to the next — the difference between social isolation and feeling included.
“We don’t want anybody to miss out and a lot of people don’t realise the centre is here. A bit of company makes such a difference to people and is something to look forward to, even if it is just once a week, so we have added to our pick up points and we now go as far as Morpeth to bring people in to the centre.
“We have plenty to eat and drink and different activities and entertainment, from crafts to music. There’s lots going on and we’d love to welcome new people.”
St John Ambulance Northumbria Deputy County Executive Officer Sheila Lambert added: “I’m really pleased we are able to offer a collection service for people in Morpeth now. Our centres have a very important role to play and we want to be able to benefit as many people in Northumbria as possible.”
For more information about the centres call 0191 256 4711.