The Landsdown Friendship Club (LFC) in Bath is a wonderful example of local people coming together to help others in the community living with dementia. The club is run by volunteers and free to attend. The club received some funding from local charities when it was set up but is run superbly with a modest budget.
Supporting LFC fits so well with the Foundation’s objectives that we are looking to build a long term relationship that will help them thrive.
We asked Mary Jane King who is the driving force behind the Club to explain how it all works. This is what she told us.
“The Lansdown Friendship Club is for people living with memory difficulties and accompanying family, friends, or carers. We also welcome guests whose partners have sadly died from dementia; many still value the support and friendship the club provides. Currently we meet monthly and about 16-20 people regularly attend. There are others we remain in touch with: people living with dementia who are no longer able to attend due to a decline in their health and other couples who are only able to attend occasionally for various reasons. Our members come from the wider community of Bath, including, Bathford, Combe Down, & Larkhall.
Meetings start with coffee, cake and a chat. This is a valued time particularly for our members who care and live with someone with memory loss as it provides a relaxed opportunity to share their news, support each other and to chat with our volunteers. Some of our members with memory difficulties enjoy the refreshments, smiles and laughter but are not always able to participate fully in conversation with others.
Coffee time is followed by an activity. Each meeting the activities are on a different theme, ranging from pottery, exercise, singing, reminiscing through artefacts from our local museum and the firm favourite Boccia (indoor bowls). Our activities reflect the interests, past working lives and hobbies of our members. These sessions are very popular and widely enjoyed creating an atmosphere of belonging and pleasure that community brings.
These shared experiences are a highlight of the afternoon for everyone. Their daily lives are all affected by memory loss, either personally or as a partner or carer. It is great to see them all embrace the opportunity to participate in our activities and enjoy the moment together.
Activities develop and new ones have been embraced. We were introduced to a new game to play with our Boccia bowls based on noughts and crosses. After a few rounds everybody soon got the measure of it and were strategically knocking the opposition out of play creating much laughter.
Getting people involved in games leads to more discussion both about the activity and generally. It also gives the carers a chance to relax by joining in with others.
Many of our members and volunteers have been coming to the group since it started. Our team of volunteers have built good relationships with our members. Friendships were particularly forged over the lockdowns in 2020/21 when we kept in touch by creating and delivering themed goodie bags to our members and spending time chatting on their doorstep, checking all was well and exploring how we could help.
We offer gentle, well received informal support often signposting to specialist services. Lifts to the club are provide if transport is proving a problem. Follow up phone calls or home visits to couples that haven’t attended recently are important.
The team are interested in our members life stories and chat with them during the activities and at coffee time, often providing some relaxed respite for their accompanying family carer.”
For further information about the Lansdown Friendship Club please contact Mary-Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01225 420946.
There are lots of opportunities to grow LFC perhaps meeting more regularly, offering new services and events but much depends on the volunteers and financial support. Our aim is to work with Mary Jane and her team to help LFC to prosper.