50 years ago, our first tea party groups began to meet once a month in Scotland. Today we have 140 groups providing friendship and social connection to older people across Scotland. To celebrate the milestone, we caught up with Irene, who coordinates tea parties for the Brechin Group, and tea party guest Muriel.
Muriel, who is 92, trained to be a Radiographer in Edinburgh and worked at Stirling and Stracathro Hospitals for many years. Irene has been involved with the Brechin group almost 15 years. She originally joined the group as a driver and later became a tea party host, and eventually the group coordinator.
“Hospital life was good, and I have many fond memories. Everything has become computerised since I was a radiographer all those years ago. It’s marvelous.”
When Muriel first started attending the Brechin Group tea parties, she was able to help out as well, so she’s very conscious of how much effort goes into the tea parties that she now attends as a guest.
“It’s such a wonderful idea. The hosts make us feel so welcome and I’m lucky enough to be driven to and from the tea parties by a volunteer driver. I love driving through the countryside, down all the by roads.
“The hosts make lovely sandwiches, sausage rolls, cakes and tea. Occasionally we’ll even have a glass of sherry!
“It’s funny to think that we were all once complete strangers and it’s amazing how we’ve come to know each other. I really look forward to the tea parties every month.
“Sometimes we go on little excursions too. We were taken out for a Christmas dinner and to visit Brechin Castle. I feel very lucky.”
“Many years ago, Irene suggested that I should give the ‘Vote of Thanks’ at our tea parties. It’s something we’ve always done, to show our gratitude to the host. It’s nice to be able to stand up in front of everyone and show how grateful I am to be part of such a lovely occasion.”
“My husband worked a way a lot at the time and my children left home a long time ago. I often found Sundays to be quite a lonely time and I could understand how it would feel for older people who are lonely or isolated. Where do you go to? What do you do?
“My role is a busy one, but it feels very rewarding. I make sure there is a driver to pick up each of our guests every month and that everyone knows the plans a good week in advance. For a while, there were 18 of us and so I had to split the group. But I like to keep the group together.
“The older guests are always so grateful. I’ve kept in touch with them throughout the pandemic and sometimes I’ve been able to help out in other ways; simple things like booking a doctor’s appointment. You hear such sad stories.
“A lot of friendships have been formed over the years. The pandemic has meant that many of our call companion volunteers and older guests haven’t met each other. They can’t wait to meet each other in the flesh when all this is over.”
Are you LGBT+ and aged 70 or older?
We are launching research to inform our work and would love to hear from you.
Celebrating 50 years in Scotland
To celebrate our anniversary, our pioneering Area Organiser in Angus, Jean Malcolm, shares her experience of helping to build a flourishing Re-engage community there.