“It’s a little bit of magic”; how a hidden Hub in Cheltenham is helping combat loneliness & isolation for older people in the community

At the heart of the Suffolk’s in Cheltenham there is a project which has become a real beacon of hope for older people in the community. The Secret Garden Hub has been offering adult day care for over five years and its warm and happy vibe  is infectious.  Three guests, who visit regularly, share what keeps them coming back.

Joy has been coming to the Secret Garden Hub since 2022.  Joy is living with a rare health condition.   Before her first visit Hub manager Mark visited Joy and her husband at home.

Joy explains; “Mark said ‘we don’t have anyone who is particularly trained for your condition but we will get somebody trained’. So he sorted out somebody out who could help me if I‘ve needed it and nobody else had done that.” 

“Originally I came to give my husband some time off as he is my carer.  I had lots of seizures, [but since coming here] they seemed to have stopped. I like chatting to the people here and the meals are always nice. I have actually changed as a person from being here and meeting people, I do like that.” 

Roger lives with dementia and explains;  

“Dementia – it’s a horrible thing to have as you don’t trust yourself. You don’t know if you are thinking correctly.  I have to write lots of notes, things like that, to lead a fairly normal life.”  [I come] to meet people because I lost all my confidence and I hardly dare go out on my own. It’s a peculiar thing really as I used to be very sociable.”

Roger used to play rugby for Northampton as wing three-quarter (and had a trial for England), “Well it was a completely amateur game in those games, training twice a week and once on Saturdays.  We never used to get back home too early.  When we played away the coach driver used say ‘I’m leaving at midnight and if you aren’t there I’m going without you’ and I did get left a few times!”

Roger visits the Hub twice a week. “[Coming here] it’s the camaraderie, chatting and talking to people which is the most important thing.” 

Mike Clayton who is a regular visitor to the Secret Garden Hub in Cheltenham

Mike started visiting the Hub after a serious health episode; “When I came home [from hospital] everything had changed, I couldn’t do anything.  Loneliness is a terrible thing, you need to know that you are not alone.  There are other people in the world in the same position as you, and that, I think is a god send.” 

Mike explained how coming to the Hub has aided his recovery and brought him a host of new friends.

 “I didn’t know this place existed.  But I am glad I found it. And so my loneliness disappeared.  I look forward to it. I shall go back amongst friends now and enjoy the rest of the day.  It is something I look forward to.”

His advice for anyone experiencing loneliness;  “Seek help, do not bottle it up look for these places where you can go, they are there, find them and then go and enjoy life.”

To find out more about the Secret Garden Hub call Mark Norris or one of the team on 01242 506121 and visit the Hub’s webpage where you can also download their monthly activity sheet or email secretgarden@lilianfaithfull.co.uk

Secret Garden Hub