Cocktails in Care Homes - volunteering with Magic Me
Helen Roberts' first volunteering experience with Magic Me - an arts charity that brings the generations together to build a stronger, safer community.
Because evenings in care homes can be quiet and lonely Magic Me ‘Cocktails in Care Homes’ bring a bit of sparkle and glamour” into residents’ lives.
Her favourite colour is blue, says she likes heavy metal music, and can’t stop dancing. Her enthusiasm is infectious.
I get there 15 minutes early. I’m not the only one – the party-goers are all eagerly waiting. Sounds from the 1970s waft out from the main lounge against a backdrop of chinking glasses, the murmur of voices, and pumpkins filled with tea-lights that twinkle from tables laden with treats.
Right away, I get introduced to a table of residents. Decked out in glittering cowboy hats, leopard print tops, sequined blouses, and sparkling tops, they’re all ready for kick-off when the clock strikes six.
A kaleidoscope of characters*
Joan a former dancer sips her sherry, elegantly. She reminisces wistfully about the glittering world of London’s dance halls in the 1950s. Cha cha cha, samba, jive, and rumba – that was more her cup of tea. She loved the amazing, swirling gowns, and the colourful world of competitive ballroom dancing.
Her friend Dot has a different tale to tell. She was ‘born and bred’ in Hoxton and used to work in a cardboard box factory in the East End. She can still smell the glue. As a small child during World War II she escaped the Blitz and got evacuated from London to the wilds of rural Wiltshire.
Tom on the next table says he was in the Royal Air Force (RAF). He got to travel the world and lived in a string of exotic places. He has a stash of traveller’s tales and a penchant for Singapore Slings. What’s his favourite cocktail tonight? Coke with a dash of rum.
Meanwhile, Hilda is happy and smiling. She sings along to the vibes of anything and everything. Her favourite colour is blue, says she likes heavy metal music, and can’t stop dancing. Her enthusiasm is infectious.
The music changes. It’s Frank Sinatra. George gets to his feet, grabs the microphone and gives us all an amazing rendition of ‘My Way’.
A positive effect
There are no hang-overs the next day, just a lingering feeling of convivial fun spent with a wonderful crowd of people. Parties are a reason to be happy and smile in a friendly and natural environment.
But these social gatherings aren’t just fun – they’re important. Especially so for those residents who don’t get many visitors. It seems a lively and vibrant change of atmosphere can have a profoundly positive effect on someone who has dementia.
Bringing generations together
Magic Me is an arts charity that works to bring the generations together to build a stronger, safer community.
Because evenings in care homes can be dull and lonely, Magic Me started its Cocktails in Care Homes programme back in 2010 “to bring a bit of sparkle and glamour” into residents’ lives. It now hosts monthly cocktail parties at eight care homes across London.
It’s really easy to sign-up as a volunteer on the Cocktails in Care Homes website. Induction is a 90-minute session at Magic Me HQ. This is where you’ll learn how to communicate with people who have dementia and walk in their shoes. You’ll also get to draw a 5-point star with your eyes closed and meet a bunch of fellow volunteers.
Our Contributing to Communities programme tells us that formal volunteering, and even small acts of informal ‘neighbourliness’, can contribute significantly to our sense of wellbeing.
If we get into the habit of volunteering during our working lives, there is evidence to suggest that we may well continue to do so later on. All of which means we’ll build stronger social connections and build a sense of greater meaning and purpose in our later lives.
So here’s to wellbeing in later life. I’m definitely looking forward to my next Cocktails in Care Homes party with Magic Me.
* Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.