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How peer support groups have been boosting community spirit at Pannel Croft Village

Our Engaged Lives project is helping ExtraCare residents to find connections and purpose in retirement, funded by the National Lottery.

As part of this, we’ve been running peer-support groups, which bring residents together to explore a range of topics that can boost confidence and community spirit – topics like “Building Resilience”, “Positive Ageing” and “Helping Others”. Over six weeks, those attending find ways to support one another by sharing and listening on these themes.

Here Myrtle, resident at Pannel Croft Village, Birmingham, discusses her experience of taking part.

Myrtle, resident at Pannel Croft Village

Over our 6 workshops we covered a lot of different topics. What do you remember being particularly useful, Myrtle?

“Make an effort to get along with each other” – that was one of the things I remember connecting to. We have to try to get along with each other, living in a community like this. I found it useful to remember that.

How can we do that?

Sometimes, people just need someone to listen to them – they don’t need a lecture. We did a lot of listening in the group, which was good.

Also, it’s little things, not mega things. Doing little things adds up and you find that people are really thankful for them. Personally I’m one of those persons, who was brought up like that. When I was a child, my mum used to “lend me” to the neighbours to do chores. And I’m still like that. There’s another lady who moved in at a similar time to me. She doesn’t have family here – her children are in Jamaica. And she can’t hear well. So, I try to help her. If she’s struggling to go out, I go with her, help her pay her TV license and other things. Those little things add up to a better society.

Was it interesting hearing about other people’s lives in the group?

Yes, because everyone’s stories were different but all important. You you don’t want to forget – you want to hold on to your memories and sometimes its hard to hold onto them, but talking about them helps.

I was surprised in the group how open people were, with what they were willing to share I’ll talk about anything. I have my own experiences, and at quiet times I think back to what happened in the past. Like when I lost my husband. Sometimes, I go through a suitcase full of pictures of things we did and our holidays – I sit on the floor get very emotional, but I feel a lot better after that – it releases endorphins. People need to be able to express themselves, and we had that in the group.

Do you feel closer to or more understanding of the people who attended the group?

I do because I got to know them a little but more. If we are in here and I see them we have banter and a chat. It was there before already, but the group helped to give it a boost.

I heard it was your birthday yesterday…

I kept it quiet – very quiet – I don’t want any fuss because when I was 80, they gave me a massive surprise birthday and that was enough to last a lifetime. Where I am now, like many people, you don’t need presents, you just need your family to be there – to know that they’re there and they care – money can’t buy that. Many people don’t have that, so I’m lucky. I thank God for every day that he gives me. I thank him each day at a time. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. What happened yesterday is gone. So, it’s now – I’m appreciating the here and now.

Some people never seem to look on the brighter side of life – they’re always negative and I don’t do negative. To me there’s always something positive to be made from a situation.

Our experience of ageing is often determined by where we are putting our attention. We focused a lot on that in the group.
Exactly – You need to be positive. You can’t be always thinking everything is bad all the time. You have to look for the positives, and that’s my motto. You will always find some.