Circles at Age UK Doncaster aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older people, supporting them to develop new connections and friendships in their communities, and our approach has always relied on physical interaction. People involved with Circles have enjoyed experiences, always with an emphasis on what matters most to them, and the feeling of connection is reciprocated by the volunteers with whom they are matched. We have witnessed everything from them attending horse racing meetings together and enjoying local theatre productions to visiting garden centres and stopping for that all-important chat, cuppa and a cake. In addition, we regularly host Sunday Socials to encourage new friendships among our Circle members where we can have up to 40 people in one room.  Whilst activities were varied, the desired outcome remained constant – that there should be an increase in both social interaction and connection.

Unfortunately, a national pandemic left us with a real lockdown challenge, and had us pondering “How do we find new ways to connect?”

Well, people have been so resourceful and with a little encouragement have really started to explore their own gifts and talents. We are delighted to hear how they have been able to make the most of their lockdown days – they are creating, campaigning, composing and working hard to make a positive difference to their communities. Here are some examples of what they have been up to!

Julie has started writing poetry again and recently had this poem published in the Doncaster Gazette.

The Virus a New Day
I am awakening up to a new dawn
And I am still indoors
I get up and have a stretch and yawn
Awake all night thinking of what we have in store
What shall I do today, looking forward to my
Coffee break
What’s new?
The house has never been as clean
Windows sparkle, carpets look like new
Today’s highlight was cleaning the loo!
Watch all the repeats, what’s new?
Talk to my friends on the phone but at the
End of the day we are all alone.
Watch the news for the latest report
Then wash the dishes and wash myself
Off to bed and see what tomorrow may bring
Julie R – Doncaster 

Jack has become Age UK Doncaster’s lockdown poet Laureate, he kindly allowed us to publish this poem on our website and has also shared a poem with Doncaster Museum, who are asking the public to send in their reflections on lockdown.

Vivien has started painting again – and is creating quite a collection.  At the moment she is working on a series of bird canvases. We are hopeful she will let us exhibit them at our Silver Link Ageing Well Centre when they are complete.

Richard used to play in a brass band and is a big music lover.  He has been using his lockdown time to try his hand at composing and has scored several pieces over the last few months.  As soon as lockdown is lifted one of our volunteers will help Richard record these so we can upload them to our social media and share for everyone to hear.

Last year Jill made and sold calendars and donated all proceeds to Age UK Doncaster.  Jill has kindly offered to do the same again this year and has used her lockdown time to get a head start in designing her 2021 calendars.  Shirley is also busy fundraising, she is a keen gardener and has been growing and selling plants in aid of a local cancer support charity.  She has been setting up the plants at the end of her drive and leaving an honesty box out.  So far, she has raised over £200!

Another Circles member who is not letting the grass grow under her feet is Brenda.  She has been busy campaigning to have a crossing installed on a dangerous road in her area and so far has been in contact with her local MP, the council and the Mayor.

So yes, we have faced a lockdown challenge, but for some that challenge now is how to find enough hours in the day to accomplish all their aims!!