Lifeline day centre making a difference in rural Oxfordshire

For a group of older people living in west Oxfordshire, Wednesdays are always circled on the calendar as the day to visit Aston and Cote Day Centre.

The thriving facility in west Oxfordshire has been running for a year, after being set up with guidance from Community Catalysts – a support programme funded by Oxfordshire County Council, which helps to develop local care and support opportunities.

The centre regularly brings together around 20 people from the rural villages to the south of Witney, offering an opportunity for members to catch up with old friends, make new ones and help bring back a sense of belonging within the community.

For member Eve Bendell, who recently lost her husband, knowing there is a day when she’s not on her own makes a real difference to her wellbeing. Eve said: “This centre has helped me considerably. Coming from such a dark place, I know that every Wednesday I can come in and feel safe, surrounded by friends.”Aston and Cote 1

Karen Stay is the founder and principal organiser. Karen decided to open the day centre as a not for profit community interest company for the over 65s, after realising that there was a big gap in provision for this age group, particularly after the COVID pandemic.

It forms part of The Oxfordshire Way – a new approach by the council’s adult social care team to support people to live well and independently, within their own communities, for as long as possible.

Karen organises the day centre, sources the food and sorts out all the administration, as well as phoning the members every Tuesday to see how they are. On Wednesdays, along with her team of volunteers, they work together to provide a safe and fun day for everyone who comes along.

Karen said: “Social isolation is a big problem for the seniors, especially after COVID. They’ve lost much of their confidence and struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression. A reduction in their mobility and a loss of their daily routine has a real negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.” 

Members have the choice of joining in with various activities, all designed to stimulate and encourage, including a seated exercise circle every week. A two-course lunch is also provided, made from locally sourced ingredients and freshly prepared on site. There is also an information hub every week, with guides and samples of gadgets for members to try out, which are designed to make their lives easier at home.

Nesta Paris, from Aston, is a regular visitor to the day centre. “I really look forward to Wednesdays as the centre provides the opportunity to be with my friends. No two Wednesdays are the same. We have lots of laughter and music, and the team of volunteers are so helpful,” she said.

Recent statistics from Age UK Oxfordshire suggest loneliness is a real problem for older people. Twenty-nine per cent of people aged 65 and older live alone and 19 per cent of people aged 70 and older say they feel lonely.

Aston & Cote Day Centre, and facilities like it, help to stave off conditions linked to loneliness, including depression and dementia, and help to highlight when more formal support might be needed.

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Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care recently visited the centre. He said: “This is a wonderful facility led by an inspirational person. Karen is not only making a difference to her members but also plays a vital role in the delivery of The Oxfordshire Way.

“By using our Community Catalysts programme she has been able to establish a community interest company that is helping people to live well, within their own communities, reducing the need for more formal, expensive care. That’s great news for both her members and the council.”

Find out more information about attending or volunteering at Aston & Cote Day Centre and other groups like it at livewell.oxfordshire.gov.uk.

For more details on how to set up your own micro care enterprise like Karen, visit communitycatalysts.co.uk/project/work-for-yourself-care-help-at-home

The new Live Well Oxfordshire paper guide is also out now. Pick up a free copy at your local GP, hospital or library or order one online at carechoices.co.uk/order-copies-of-a-directory

Take a look at our video to find out more about Aston and Cote Day Centre

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