In the slums of India, a variation on Adopt-a-Grandma is happening.
SOLE and SOME, otherwise known as The Granny Cloud, are a collection of 200-odd volunteers who have been reading fairy tales to kids in slums. Many of the volunteers are retired teachers, so they have expanded into being educational mentors. Their sessions are mediated and each volunteer offers about an hour a week.
It’s a small thing to a retired teacher, but it might be the highlight of these children’s week. Many of them cannot go to school (the kids, not the retired teachers!). Having access to an English grandmother figure is fascinating and inspiring to them.
This is Rebecca Storey’s story about the beginning of her community in her block.
“One New Year’s Eve a few years ago, I was getting ready to go out when I heard a tapping on my front door. I found my next door neighbour slumped on the floor. She is an elderly Caribbean lady living alone. She’d had an accident and had nobody to help her. I took her to the hospital, both of us in our slippers.
“Are you going out?”
“No…” (I just wear eye makeup up to my eyebrows all the time!)
We didn’t get back to 4am that night, but it gave me a reality check.
Until then I hadn’t paid that much attention to the older generation in my block. I realised then that we needed to help. I got some of the other residents involved and we now have a system for helping the older people in our block. We take it in turns to cook for each other. My next door neighbour doesn’t have any family in London, so she really needs our support. It feels good to support these people; we’ve created a community.
We’ve got an old actor upstairs (dahhling!), he’s 82; he’s ‘out’ and still very much socialising. Sometimes he cooks for us! He needs that opportunity to feel needed.
Some people just need to be listened to. Some need someone to turn to when they have an accident – just someone nearby.
We’ve got an Angolan family here, and little Miriam doesn’t have any extended family that she can see regularly. She loves to have Miss Emma in her life. It makes a difference. There is a disconnect between generations in our society. Every connection like this counts.”
Rebecca has been instrumental in creating a community in her block, on top of being Theatre Manager at a West End theatre.
If she can do it, so can we.
Adopt-a-Grandma is not focused on volunteering to help the elderly – rather, we recognise the mutual need for young people to have older people as friends and vice versa. Friendships can involve helping each other, but the focus in this scheme is connecting people in the community for inter-generational friendship. Perhaps some of these friendships will develop to almost surrogate family status, as it did for my family.
We’re a free service that matches older people without families to families without grandparents in our local area. If you get involved, we have an activity pack to help you to get to know your adopted grandma that you can download online, or we can send you one by post.
If you’d like a life-enriching relationship with someone from a different generation, please get in touch.