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Sundial centre shines light on pensioners in Bethnal Green to keep them on the ball

PUBLISHED: 18:00 26 September 2018

Sheila Cope, 90, and the pensioners at Raines House who were running their own club for 40 years in Wapping. Picture: Vickie Flores

Sheila Cope, 90, and the pensioners at Raines House who were running their own club for 40 years in Wapping. Picture: Vickie Flores

Vickie Flores

A week of events for the elderly is being championed by Tower Hamlets Council to tackle isolation and keep them active.

Gloria Lacey, 80, and her darts team-mates at Bethnal Green's Sundial centre. Picture source: LBTHGloria Lacey, 80, and her darts team-mates at Bethnal Green's Sundial centre. Picture source: LBTH

It includes talks, workshops and activities tailored for the estimated 17,000 men and women over 65 which starts on United Nations International Day for Older Persons on Monday.

Numbers of East End pensioners is expected to rise by another 10,000 in the next 12 years.

So the council runs LinkAge Plus activity centres like Bethnal Green’s Sundial in Shipton Street with its fitness classes, ballet and dance workshops, coffee mornings, computer training and knitting sessions.

Cllr Denise Jones, 73, appointed OAPs' champion on Tower Hamlets Council by 62-year-old Mayor John Biggs. Pictures: Steve Bishop (left) and Mike BrookeCllr Denise Jones, 73, appointed OAPs' champion on Tower Hamlets Council by 62-year-old Mayor John Biggs. Pictures: Steve Bishop (left) and Mike Brooke

Gloria Lacey, who’s 80, first went to the centre 10 years ago and is there four days a week.

“It saves me sitting in my flat looking at the four walls,” she said. “I mainly come along for the company—the exercise also keeps my muscles going.”

Pensioners have its own “champion” on the council, cabinet member Denise Jones, at 73, who was given the job of ‘advocate for older people’ in June. The septuagenarian, first elected a councillor at 49, was appointed by mayor John Biggs, who is himself pushing 62 next month. He insists: “Growing older shouldn’t reduce your dignity or fundamental rights.”

Neighbours in Poplar founder Sister Christine Frost, 81, tackling OAP isolation. Picture: Mike BrookeNeighbours in Poplar founder Sister Christine Frost, 81, tackling OAP isolation. Picture: Mike Brooke

Monday also marks the 10th anniversary of the LinkAge programme with its five centres funded by the council and the GPs’ clinical commissioners.

The centres include St Mathias run by Sister Christine Frost’s Neighbour’s In Poplar charity. Sister Christine, at 81, began her campaign to end isolation among the East End’s elderly more than 50 years ago.

Other centres in the LinkAge network are at Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel, Sonali Gardens in Shadwell and Age UK in Bow, as well as Sundial in Bethnal Green.

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