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Joining book clubs and more without leaving home with TalkTime

Joining book clubs and more without leaving home with TalkTimeAvoiding loneliness can be quite a challenge for anyone that’s housebound or can only get out with help. We look at a scheme run by the charity Independent Age in the UK that aims to help people with similar interests talk together by phone.

It started as a telephone book club, designed to bring people together to talk about the book they’ve read that month even if they couldn’t get to a club in person.

Today the TalkTime phone clubs run by the charity Independent Age offer a multitude of diverse topics, such as football, gardening, TV programmes, military memorabilia and mechanical engineering. The clubs offer not just an opportunity to share an interest but also to get to know new people from across the country.

Easy to get involved

The free clubs have been created with older people in mind. A facilitator brings the club members together at an arranged time by calling them on their landline or mobile phone. All the club member has to do is pick up the phone when it rings. They don’t have to worry about getting the chance to speak. With around six members for each group, there’s plenty of discussion opportunities for everyone in a call that lasts around an hour, and the facilitator makes sure that everyone can contribute.

Today there are 24 clubs and new suggestions for groups are always welcome. The book clubs have remained a firm favourite though and film groups are popular too.

In the case of the book club Independent Age provides the books, including where possible large print or audio versions. The book arrives in plenty of time for readers to get a chance to finish it before the call takes place. Film clubs work in the same work, with the charity ensuring everyone involved gets to watch the DVD before the call. Return labels included with the books and DVDs ensure that group members can easily return them to be passed on to the next group.

The books and DVDs for discussion are chosen by members, and the group works its way through the list, so everyone has a chance to nominate a book or film they’d like to talk about.

Active minds and great conversations

Jonni, 88, from Cumbria, who’s housebound, joined the book group in May 2012. Her husband had died a few years ago and her four children are scattered across the UK and abroad. Although she has good friends and correspondents, she relies on others to take her out in her wheelchair and so spends a lot of time indoors. She says, “When you get to my age you have to keep your mind busy so when I heard about the book group I thought it was a marvellous idea.”

An avid reader, Jonni is really enjoying being able to discuss books with others while she gets to know new people. “It’s so good to be able to speak to someone else who’s reading the same thing and exchange news and views on what we’ve read,” she says.

“At the beginning I thought, ‘Well, if there are six of us on the line at once, how are we going to know whose turn it is to speak?’ But it just works extremely well. It’s very enjoyable. I’d like to know more about each member of the group. I’m always interested in people - I really enjoy getting to know more people.”

How your parent can join

If your parent would like to get involved in a TalkTime club, they can find out more by calling the Independent Age telephone services manager, Rosalind Devine, on 0207 605 4232 or her colleague Marianne on 0207 605 4293. Clubs are available for anyone living in the UK.

When demand is high potential members will join a waiting list, but there’s usually no more than a month’s wait. The availability of clubs does also depend on the availability of facilitators, so Rosalind and Marianne are always happy to hear from potential volunteers.

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