Meeting place where elderly learn, laugh and limber up

A chat and a read in the Laburnum Centre's libruary

Picture by Louise Adams C131720-1 Bog Dec24 Laburnum

A chat and a read in the Laburnum Centre's libruary Picture by Louise Adams C131720-1 Bog Dec24 Laburnum

TUESDAYS mean just one thing to Middleton resident Joy Beach.

She heads to the crafts group at the Laburnum Centre in Bognor Regis.

She always has done since the centre opened nearly 24 years ago.

That is fitting because Joy, 90, was among those who campaigned for a day centre for older residents to be opened in the town centre.

She said: “Before it opened, I went into the town hall where I was asked if I could do anything to help.

“I went round the town, asking for ideas and donations.

“As soon as it opened, 
I joined the crafts group 
and I’ve been coming here ever since.

“I can’t imagine going anywhere else on Tuesdays. You make friends here and you meet friends.”

Joy uses her days at the centre to create a wide range of objects.

They have included lampshades, crocheted items, pewter work, brooches and door nameplates.

Former occupational therapist Joy is the joint oldest member of the group.

The all-day sessions attract some 23 members most weeks, aged from their late-50s upwards.

They are led by Pip Jones. She took over about 18 years ago after she joined at least two years earlier.

“We are a very good group,” she said.

“We all enjoy it so much. Because we are all sitting and sewing, we can talk.

“That means a lot of problems are talked out.

“We can also share each others’ experiences.

“We relax when we 
come here.”

Next door on the centre’s first floor there is an 
earnest silence as the bridge club’s members ponder their next moves.

Their leader for the 
past 15 years is 93-year-old Lesley Readwin.

She said: “I’ve been playing bridge since I was 13.

“I really enjoy passing on my knowledge.

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.

“I’m such good friends with those who come here that I really enjoy myself and it keeps my mind active.

“I’m so glad I can carry on doing it.”

Among her members is Julia Wiegand, 68.

She said: I’ve been coming here for about six months 
and I love it.

“Lesley is a real inspiration and very patient, but she does give us a slap on the wrists occasionally.”

The library is close by for those who like to stimulate their mind with a book rather than a pack of cards in 
their hands.

Gavin Malcolm, a former soldier and electrical engineer, is among those who keep it running.

He has helped to oversee its loans of books, DVDs, talking books and jigsaws to dozens of borrowers every week for the past six years.

Members can also read newspapers and magazines there.

“Jigsaws are popular at 
this time of year,” said the 74-year-old member.

“It was a case of working all my life and wanting to give something back, in some cases to people who are less fortunate.

“I like reading and so this was an obvious place 
to come.”

The peace and quiet of the library changes to the rhythms of the treadmill in just a few steps downstairs 
as the centre’s busy gym enables energetic members to enjoy a workout.

Colin Pope, who manages the centre on behalf of operator Age UK West Sussex, said the gym had been a 
big success since it opened two years ago.

“We are looking to bring in the ‘younger sort’ of older person and the gym is helping us to do that,” he said.

“That has been a big success story since it opened and is attracting more and more members.

“We have them into their 90s using the exercise bikes.”

This is helping the centre in Lyon Street to begin to put on members aged 50-plus after a period of decline.

The number stands at 764.

On some mornings, it can seem they all attend at once.

Colin said: “It can be standing room only downstairs on some mornings.

“That shows there’s a need for this centre.

“It’s usually the case people lose their partners, but they still want an active social life and that’s when they join us.”




Back to the top of the page