Former librarian Anna is a member of Fair Shares Stroud, the town’s time bank. She had been worried that, once she’d retired, she’d miss the bustle and interest of her job and the people she worked with and helped at the library. And, though as a talented artist and gardener with many friends, she knew she wouldn’t be short of things to do, she wanted to do something for her community.
“There’s always a slight concern that you might become lonely as you get older,” says Anna. “So I decided to look outwards, rather than retreat.”
A chance meeting in Stroud town centre with Chris Moore from Fair Shares – a regular visitor to the library where Anna used to work – opened up a new world for Anna.
“I went to a couple of meetings where we talked about projects we could get involved with,” says Anna. “They mentioned a sheltered housing complex where volunteers were needed to befriend residents. I started going there regularly and got to know some of the residents and then began helping out their volunteer warden – and it all snowballed!”
Since then, Anna has helped organise trips and, with her friend and fellow Fair Shares member Pat Sykes, gets involved with singing sessions at the complex. This led in turn to leading a series of dementia-friendly walks held over the summer months, starting from Stroud’s Museum in the Park.
“The idea of the walks came from the Dementia Adventure initiative in Essex,” says Anna. “Fair Shares organised two training sessions and first aid training and we worked together to plan the walks for older people and those with dementia to enjoy.
She adds: “It’s been wonderful helping people and their carers get outdoors for a gentle stroll, with the sun on their faces and even the odd drop of rain – we often find ourselves singing together! Sometimes people get stuck inside in their own homes, or in a care home, and forget what it’s like to smell the flowers and feel the breeze.”
Anna is happy to volunteer for all sorts of Fair Shares projects. “I like the whole principle of Fair Shares, doing something for your own community,” she explains. “What I also like is that I can balance my volunteering with enjoying my garden, painting and meeting friends. Fair Shares has opened up a whole new world of friendship, with no chance of ever being lonely!”
A throwaway comment during a park walk led to a fascinating journey for another Stroud time bank member. Eileen, an 89-year-old woman living in a care home, joined one of Stroud time bank’s Stratford Park walks, during which she mentioned she’d often been here “to see the lawnmower”. The Museum in the Park exhibits a model of the first ever lawnmower, invented in Stroud by Edwin Budding in 1830.
Eileen explained that her father was a relative of Edwin Budding and had worked at a local factory, Waller’s Engineering, previously Phoenix Ironworks, where the Budding lawnmower had been produced. The Museum’s education officer came to speak with Eileen because of the historical significance of her family connections.
Staff at Eileen’s care home were interested in highlighting her place in local and national history with other staff and residents, and contact was made with her niece who had more information about the family.
Fair Shares Stroud then contacted the founder of the Budding Museum of Gardening and the Budding Foundation in Sussex, set up to support young people promoting horticulture and conservation. They forged stronger links with Eileen and her family to honour Budding and his invention.