Today is the International Day of the Older Person. This year the UN are spotlighting the resilience and contribution of older women. Older women are often the backbone of society, the unsung heroes in every community. This month Warrington Housing Association and LifeTime will celebrate and be sharing some of the women who are making our community better through their dedication, experience, expertise and care.
Meet Margaret Whitley, a woman who seems busier after retirement than before – if that is possible!
Dubbed Mrs LifeTime, she has volunteered at WHA’s over-50s hub since it opened in 2013. Each week the former IT project support officer puts her super-honed skills to work sorting out the volunteer admin at LifeTime in the Gateway. She can then be found serving coffees at the café in the centre.
She said: “I do enjoy LifeTime, there is so much for people to do here. With winter coming, lots of older people may be facing loneliness and no confidence because of covid. They should come into LifeTime for the activities or just a cup of tea.”
Once a month, along with her husband Bernard (Mr LifeTime!), she hosts a lunch club for 18 of their fellow Lowry Close residents at nearby St James Church. For a £5 fee, diners enjoy a tasty meal – sausage and mash is a favourite lovingly prepared by the couple – and entertainment in the form of a quiz, games or visit from the wellbeing team.
And money accrued from the lunch club funds Margaret’s Christmas buffet complete with gifts delivered by a friendly Father Christmas.
The Whitleys also throw regular coffee mornings at their home for those elderly neighbours who are less likely to get out and about much.
Margaret, who is 74, adds: “I can always be relied on to do a bit of baking if Andrea (LifeTIme manager) needs some cakes for one of our fundraisers – I am busier retired than I was in work!”
At the LifeTIme Centre, Margaret has enjoyed attending a yoga class or two but she has been known to on be the other side, running lessons too!
She said: “After I was made redundant, we moved to Spain for five years. When we joined LifeTime it was suggested a class on the Spanish culture might be nice. So, we shared our knowledge of what living out there was like, the language and food. We had great fun handing out homework!”
The educator and volunteer genes must run in the family as one of the Whitleys’ daughters Clare, a trainee teacher, also tutored LifeTime members in the art of crochet at the stitch and craft sessions – ably assisted of course by mum Margaret!
When the Whitleys returned to live in Warrington after spells in South Africa and Spain to be closer to their grandchildren it was a bit of a shock.
Margaret said: “We looked around and realised there was nothing to do for our age range.
Fortunately, we attended an AGM when we became WHA tenants at Lowry Close and they were asking volunteers to help get LifeTime off the ground. It was hard work to get things going in the beginning with days handing out flyers, but so worthwhile.”
And the rest is history.
Margaret said: “A woman told me last week and said: “I have just retired and I am bored! Am I supposed to just stay at home at just look at these four walls or wander round the shops forever?”
“Now when people ask where I go when I retire, I can point them in the direction of LifeTime.
“You make friends and have a giggle and a good chat and just enjoy being out of the house. All the volunteers work hard so others can enjoy it. But what else would I be doing? I hate shopping, I want to be using my brain!”
As well as keep herself sharp, Margaret has kept WHA on its toes too. She has in the past given up what little was left of the free time she had to sit on the WHA scrutiny committee that reviews our procedures and policies from a tenant’s perspective. Recommendations to the Board made by WHASP have improved the customer experience for all and the general running of the housing association.
Without women like Margaret, communities would be so much the poorer. On International Day of the Older Person, we at WHA would like to acknowledge their resilience and say thank you for their contributions.
If you would like to volunteer at LifeTime call 01925 246824 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or have ideas about how to make life better for your fellow WHA tenants and want to share them on the Scrutiny Committee contact WHA here.