How street bingo has become the highlight of social calendars in Richmond Hill

For 25 years over 60s in a Leeds suburb have been going to events organised by a charity to help keep them active, connected and busy.

Monday, 17th August 2020, 6:00 am

But now, with lockdown having seen off the social calendar, Richmond Hill Elderly Action (RHEA) has come to its members with a new programme that means just because you are a certain age - you don't have to stay indoors.

For most of this summer, in little courtyards, cul-de-sacs and gardens around Richmond Hill and Burmantofts you might have heard random cries of 'two fat ladies', 'eyes down' and 'top of the shops', followed by a little heckling, or got a whiff of home-made pakoras passing you by.

It has all been going on at a sheltered housing set up in Richmond Hill where it very much a case of 60 and out - literally.

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Joe Wicks, aged 77, calls the numbers.

RHEA has been hosting street bingo sessions and lazy lunches at various locations in the LS9 ward as a way of making sure that older folk are not alone or missing out.

It comes as a campaign to raise awareness of ageism and change negative attitudes about ageing and older people within the city is preparing to move into its final phase.

The Age Proud campaign will, from October, focus on how it is time to feel good about ageing and share the positive benefits that being older and wiser can bring.

It was launched in October last year by Leeds Older People's Forum working with the Leeds Age Friendly Partnership, Leeds City Council, the NHS in Leeds, and voluntary sector organisations.

Eyes down as residents in Richmond Hill play street bingo.

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He said: "We made thousands upon thousands of phone calls to people to check that they were okay and thought people can't come to us, how do we carry on? We came up with the idea of street bingo because it is easy enough to organise and people seemed really keen for it to happen."

On a boiling summer afternoon, around 20 residents are sat in their own gardens in Spring Close Walk with dabbers and bingo cards. Prizes are better than you would find in your local WMC too with fruit hampers and a full English breakfast in a box among the haul.

Margaret is a regular player with her family and says the work of groups like RHEA keep older people busy.

Margaret hoping to claim the bingo prizes.

She said: "We don't have many days off. We do RHEA on a Monday, it was the community centre on a Tuesday, Wednesday is a day off but I go shopping, Thursday is the ASDA bus and Friday is bingo or any activity going.

"RHEA are very, very good - even when it is not lockdown. We ring for any help at all. We have sat out and played our own games of bingo, last Friday night we were sat out and said shall we just play, and we did."

Giving local residents that starting point and platform is exactly what RHEA, which was established in 1995, wants to happen and going forward, the nature of its work will be very different to how it was before the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Xavier added: "It was never about bingo, it was about getting people out of their own front doors in a safe environment knowing that we have taken care of everything and they don't have to worry.

Darrell Xavier, project manager at Richmond Hill Elderly Action.

"In the very first session there was a chap who didn't join in but came outside to see what was happening. He sat in the sunshine and just said it was lovely to hear normality and people talking and out and about.

"We are launching Lazy Lunches which is exactly what it says and inviting people to join us for a lunch they have prepared themselves for a socially distanced catch up.

"Going forward there is going to be a growing number of people who are anxious about coming out and the virus is still real. Richmond Hill, geographically is nothing but housing stock. To buy fresh produce you have to go further afield so we are building confidence to use buses, showing where they can buy a mask, understand the current legislation.

"We want to support that transition to whatever normality people are comfortable with."

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Thank you

Laura Collins