The Healthy Living Club, set up by Simona Florio, is a dementia centered community currently operating at the Lingham Court care home in Stockwell. It is open to those in Lambeth with dementia and the residents of Lingham Court. Attendees can meet there to spend time with each other and enjoy the variety of activities that HLC help to make available.
In November 2015 the Healthy Living Club received £750 from the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s local micro-grants scheme. The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales (our monthly community lottery), sale of B£ merchandise in the Brixton Pound Shop, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So – whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping fund local groups like the Healthy Living Club.
This is Simona’s story.
“I moved to South London from Dalston because I wanted to be closer to work – so I guess the Healthy Living Club brought me here. But I actually first lived in Brixton many years ago when I was working at the Bartlett School, where I was responsible for their Erasmus programs. I loved it when was I living there, so it was nice being able to come back again.”
“I started the Healthy Living Club from scratch and got a job with the Alzheimer’s Society here at Lingham Court care home. They had the funding for three years and everyone assumed it would carry on, but actually when the funding ran out they really did close the program. Because it was announced at the last minute everyone was incredibly shocked and upset.”
“The volunteers and ourselves felt that we had to come to regard ourselves as friends with those who attended, and those who attended felt they didn’t have anywhere safe to meet. Once you get dementia it becomes very hard to go out to places that are not conventional like bars or cafes. So this was the only place they came all week and it’s the only time they saw anyone from outside. Everyone should have that basic right to a community life.”
“Despite the service closing and loss of funding we continued as if nothing happened. We turned up the next week and everyone was there, nobody was missing. Even though some were paid and were unsure if they would receive pay, nobody dropped off, even after a year. It was seven months before we even got our first grant!”
“People with dementia don’t like change, so our main aim is to keep activities the same. A typical day at the Wednesday club starts at 11am with an exercise class, which is very good for people with dementia as it slows down the protein that is the hallmark of dementia. We like to make sure it’s fun and that everyone in the group is involved. At 12:15pm we have a musical session – again, music is great for people with dementia, as music is stored in a different part of the brain. So whilst people forget a lot of other things, music is still there. Even people who have difficulty walking find they have the memory of how to dance in their bodies from the music.”
“Then at 1pm we will have lunch with soft food and finger foods for those that can’t use cutlery. After lunch we have various activities, for example musical bingo, games, art and crafts, drama, food tastings or talks from the National Gallery. The afternoon is meant to be more unstructured. Although we can’t have too many things going on at once, as it can be confusing for everyone.”
“We also offer activities on a Monday and a carers group meeting once a month. So as you can see, we put on a lot of events and the demand is there. The main problem for us is actually securing the funding to put them on.”
“In the future we would like to take HLC to other care homes too. It is not the job of care homes to provide any activities or extra care for their residents. So we would like to provide this to those living there in addition to all these dementia patients from outside who don’t have anything going on. Providing activities is really quite cheap and there are all these premises we can use for free to do this.”
“When we first started, those attending had to pay £3 for their lunch, but it was impossible to collect the money when they didn’t have any, didn’t know where their money was, or didn’t know how much they had paid. It became really disruptive as some people weren’t eating or they were eating at different times so they missed out on activities.”
“It is also really important to be in a place where everyone is equal. If it is your home and you live here, and someone charges you for lunch on the day, it is weird that you are getting charged by someone for food in your own home. It makes you feel as if it isn’t your home. So what do you do?”
“We decided to offer the lunches for free. However the costs of this all adds up to become expensive. The food comes from FareShare, one of our volunteers collects the food from them and doesn’t charge for travel expenses. But we still have to get other essentials such as oil, flour, some meat, and some refreshments for our Monday club. We also need to cover the costs of a chef because the food needs to be cooked by someone who can cater for the needs specific to everyone living and attending here.”
“Since providing these free lunches is a huge part of our cost and is something that funders don’t like to contribute to, I thought – why don’t we try make this more sustainable by getting another source of funding for it? We want to set up a scheme to recruit restaurants willing to donate some money each month towards paying for lunch at HLC. That is what the Brixton Fund is helping to support.”
Healthy Living Club club meets at Lingham Court, 10 Lingham Street, Stockwell, London SW9 9HF.
Wednesday Club (11.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m)
Monday morning Breakfast Club (10.00 a.m. – 12.30 p.m)
Monthly carers’ group led by the Lambeth Carers’ Hub
If you’d like to support HLC’s work, click here for more information – or come by the Brixton Pound Shop (3 Atlantic Rd, SW9 8HX) and have a look at a brilliant table decorated by the members of the Healthy Living Club which is now being auctioned – all proceeds will be used to keep Healthy Living Club’s art project going.
Contact Simona Florio for any questions
Phone 07790 499317
Unit 506, Strata, 8 Walworth Road, London SE1 6EE
This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.