Bramley Elderly Action Covid grant funds reading group helping older people find their voice
A reading group hosted by a Leeds charity is helping older people to find their voices after a year with fewer opportunities for social interaction.
Bramley Elderly Action (BEA) was able to fund the project and other activities after securing a grant from Leeds Older People's Forum, which brings together more than 80 voluntary sector organisations and neighbourhood networks working with older people across the city.
The forum had been given almost £133,000 by Leeds City Council's public health team to help grassroots organisations to increase their capacity to provide wellbeing support.
Activity packs were delivered by BEA to the homes of 94 people, with items included sketchbooks and flower bulbs.
Meanwhile, its virtual reading group has brought together around a dozen participants on a weekly basis during lockdown.
When the group first began, the aims were to relieve feelings of isolation, provide a feeling of belonging and improve people's mood.
Maggie, one of those taking part, said: "It's bringing people together again, at a time when we can't get together. I gain a lot from that; feeling like part of a group."
Fellow group member Shirley added: "I can't wait for the next Wednesday. I enjoy it so much."
An unexpected outcome has been that people have found reading out loud exercises their voice as social restrictions have meant many of them have fewer opportunities to speak.
One participant said: "I've got a stutter and because of the pandemic I've not been socialising so much so this group will help me to keep practising speech."
Another said: "I don't talk much at home so reading aloud is good for keeping my voice working."
Many have grown in confidence as a result and take turns reading to the group from the shared text, while others just like to listen.
One participant said: "I really enjoy reading but I've not been able to get to the opticians because of lockdown and because I've been recovering from a fall and have been housebound. So listening to a story is ideal to get me back into it."
Using feedback from those taking part, the group leader has begun to draw up a reading list including work by the likes of Alan Bennett and Roald Dahl.
Short stories have proved popular as they allow more participants to join as new book beings, while other plans include reading some short plays by Victoria Wood so that participants can each take on a part.
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