Community hub helps make growing old an art
2011: Retired teacher, Libby Creber, dedicated her MA in counselling dissertation to her late mother's desire to make growing old an art. From this has come a unique, social life-line for carers and those they care for at Wymondham's Cup of Caring. Sandie Shirley reports.
Libby knows the heartache and hard-won understanding that comes while caring for two elderly family members. One suffered from senility and a lack of mobility and the other from a loss of coherent language, caused by a stroke. Her empathy and understanding of others was also enlarged during her six case-studies of carers for the elderly during her recent UEA degree.
"God first led me to do counselling 12 years ago and I felt it always had to have a purpose," says Libby, who now shares her knowledge and professional qualification at the monthly sessions with a 12-strong volunteer team from Hope Community Church.
Through the Hub Community Project, they bring a new and enlivening dimension to carers, and those they care for, who sometimes battle fatigue and isolation. The sessions with music, singing and refreshments also feature past and present themed events including holidays and a Royal Wedding celebration meal in April. Cup of Caring opened last September and it attracts those from near and far with diverse needs, including lack of mobility, senile dementia and Parkinson's Disease but all are welcome, explains Libby.
"We provide an accepting, informal meeting place where visitors don't need to feel at all embarrassed and where carers can communicate with one another and share insights," said Libby, whose volunteer team have all cared for close family members.
"I have learned that it is important to be quiet and listen, respond to body language and promote a sense of purpose and dignity for all who attend," says Libby, whose sessions currently attract the over 50s, but carers in other age groups are welcome.
Her mother-in-law died recently, having suffered from aphasia (loss of language) for over five years. Libby also saw the effects of dementia when her mother, a committed Christian, lived in a residential home for 30 months. "During one visit I found some of her notes that read: 'Growing old is an art - it depends on mind, heart, emotion and security. By themselves these are powerless, unless surrounded by love'," recalls Libby, who sees them as helping to define her purpose.
The Hub in Wymondham is a fast-growing expression of community care in the heart of town. The former Job Centre with its modern re-fit, is used by a team of volunteers from Hope Community Church, Wymondham, to value and uphold today's diverse and changing society.
Through the Hub Community Project, a new route of practical empathy is being channelled into the lives of mums, youngsters, the elderly and their carers and those from overseas, through regular expert sessions.