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Norwich pubs provide help to older folk

PUBLISHED: 19:04 30 March 2011

Simon Marsh and Nicola Siggery behind the bar at The Farmhouse, Colman Road, Norwich.

Simon Marsh and Nicola Siggery behind the bar at The Farmhouse, Colman Road, Norwich.

Archant © 2007

Pubs in Norwich are spearheading an innovative project to help older people remain a part of the community by providing a welcoming venue where they can meet up and socialise.

The Farmhouse pub on Colman Road, and The Heartsease on Plumstead Road are both part of a unique scheme devised by Age UK Norwich, which gives older people living in sheltered housing or those who attend luncheon clubs and who often find it hard to get out and about a chance to spend time at a local where they can enjoy teas, coffees, a meal and other activities.

Backers of the scheme believe it is ideal because it provides a place where older people can go while for the pub it brings the added plus of providing a community focus as well as keeping them vibrant, while also helping to attract new customers – and they are keen for other pubs to sign up.

Simon Marsh, landlord of The Farmhouse, said he and his partner Nicola Siggery became involved after being asked to organise a barbecue for residents at the nearby Violet Elvin Court. Other events followed that success and then they were approached to see if they would be happy to be part of an Age UK Norwich monthly pub visit.

“It started off with them coming in for a cup of tea or coffee, which we did for a £1 a go,” he said.

“There were 11 people to start and now there are about 30. There’s a really nice community feel to it.

“Some of our regulars who are over 90 have also started to join in.

“We also put on a meal for them with a choice of three main courses and desserts. They absolutely love it and they sit there and talk to the regulars.

“It’s good for us as well; it keeps the pub busy and people popping in think ‘what’s going on here’.”

This week, Age UK Norwich and Age UK Norfolk launched a Celebrate Age campaign, aimed at recognising the contribution older people make in the community, and also those in the community who are supporting those who are living longer.

Mr Marsh said the pub had also looked after some of the older regulars by providing a special Christmas Day meal for those who were on their own over the festive period, even buying presents to help make it a special day.

And he urged other pubs in the city to follow suit. “If a pub doesn’t want to do it, I would say it’s a big loss, because they are losing their community, which is what it’s all about.

“There are so many pubs which have gone down.

“I don’t want to be another Firs which is a Tesco Express, or another Romany that’s a Co-op.

“I would say definitely do it,” he added.

“If they can go somewhere and feel safe and secure, it’s a big asset.

“Most of them have children and neighbours and they can spread the word about how nice it is in the pub.

“The pub isn’t just a drinking hole; it’s a place to relax and have a meal. We have all walks of life who come in here and we have had four generations from young children to those over 100.”

Caroline Carruthers, landlady of The Heartsease, said: “I think it’s brilliant.

“Obviously they get a social occasion out of it and get to meet different people rather than staring at four walls all day, and we also provide a number of meals for them at a reduced price.

Claire Kerrison, outreach activities advisor at Age UK Norwich, said: “I was thinking that pubs were also struggling and we should be working with them,” she said.

“I approached The Heartsease pub and said we would provide the transport for people at our luncheon clubs to the pub and they thought it was a great idea.

“It’s just a really nice time and I think it encourages older men to come because they feel comfortable in that environment. At the Farmhouse, people were saying to us that it would be really nice if they could come earlier and have lunch.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who has visited The Heartsease to see how the project worked, said it was great example of how pubs can be a part of the community.

“It’s a great initiative,” she said. “Everybody enjoys themselves and it’s a real benefit to have pubs used as community hubs in this way.

“I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t roll it out across the city, and not only just for older people, but for everyone.”

If you want your pub to be involved, call Claire Kerrison on 07786 900685.

The Evening News has been encouraging people to use their local pubs through its Love Your Local campaign. To read more stories from the campaign visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal

Coming up tomorrow: How young and old are working together in our city schools.

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