HCEO – Older People at the Heart of the Community

This month we are pleased to shine our community spotlight on the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation (“HCEO”). The charity’s vision is to work together to build stronger and closer inclusive communities where every day is to be eagerly anticipated by the elderly individual. It’s mission is to bring local elderly people together to share life!

(Above photo) Beryl Pusey – Day Services Manager

HCEO was established in Stoke Newington in 1985, to bring older people from the various Caribbean islands together for social activities and to fill a gap in services. With the easing of lockdown restrictions, community groups are supporting older people by helping them feel safe to re-engage with society and return to a sense of normalcy. HCEO is one of the community groups playing this important role, and we caught up with Lullyn Tavares, HCEO’s Finance and Administrative Director, to learn more about the charity’s vital work.

What does the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation (HCEO) do?
HCEO aims to enhance the quality of life and wellbeing of primarily, but not exclusively, elderly African and Caribbean people living in the local community. Through our work, we prevent loneliness, isolation and bring communities together. HCEO is a friendly group with a caring and creative approach. We build good relationships with service users, their families and carers, and ensure that older people’s interests are promoted as part of the diverse neighbourhood in Hackney.

The Lunch Club with social activities are at the heart of HCEO’s service provision. We offer nutritious lunches freshly cooked on the premises; exercise & movement; arts and crafts; music therapy, seaside outings and space, to encourage older people to live well and maintain their independence.

Our Dementia Memory Wellbeing Project has been running for many years. It supports elders diagnosed with low/moderate dementia and engages with carers and families. It seeks to raise awareness and reduce stigma in the community about dementia.

We also provide information and advocacy, and signposts when members require specialist assistance.

What are the challenges that your service users face? How has this been affected by the pandemic?
The pandemic has disproportionately affected BAME communities, including our own membership. Some elderly members have reported that they feel more isolated, anxious about mixing with crowds and travelling on public transport.

There has been a health decline and we anticipate there may be more demand for our services and complex issues to deal with.

How does HCEO’s work help users overcome these challenges?
Our team understands and empathises with the challenges of ageing faced by our membership.

We know that creative and cultural participation contributes to improved health and wellbeing, and creates a sense of identity, purpose and affinity within the group. We provide a homely and accessible environment where we listen to and share difficulties, and work together to provide emotional and practical support.

Do you have an inspirational story that you would like to share?

(Above photo) James and Daisy Aymer – active members of HCEO for over 25 years. Recently celebrated their 52nd Wedding Anniversary.

James and Daisy Aymer – active members of HCEO for over 25 years. Recently celebrated their 52nd Wedding Anniversary.

James and Daisy Aymer have been active members of HCEO for over 25 years. They recently celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary and James celebrated his 94th birthday. They are both entertaining story tellers.

James is a wheelchair user, having had both legs amputated (one in 1992 and the other in 1997) due to Type 2 Diabetes. One of our regular activities is Health Education talks, especially on conditions affecting Black communities such as Type 2 Diabetes, Prostate, and High Blood pressure. James has no hesitation in telling his story during those talks, not only as a serious warning of potential consequences of Type 2 Diabetes, but that a person living with the condition can lead a full life into their later years.

James is passionate about playing dominoes. We recall with amusement a game James played with a young female corporate volunteer who visited us for the day. Unknown to him, she was taught how to play dominoes ‘Caribbean style’ by one of her grandparents; she knew all about the intrigue and competitiveness of the game, and played with equal zeal.

Daisy is a seamstress who specialised in cultural costume making. She performed with a troupe of Caribbean Quadrille* dancers in London and various cities such as Bristol and Birmingham. One of their performances was to lead a Parade in the first Stoke Newington Church Street Festival which wound its way to Clissold Park.

*(The Caribbean quadrille emerged as an adaptation of a French quadrille dance. Variations of the dance are performed on different islands throughout the Caribbean).

Daisy volunteered for many years and was active in the community. During the pandemic we provided Daisy with arts & craft activities and a tablet during Lockdown. With some help from staff, she persevered in learning to use the digital device. Since then, she has been regularly attending the virtual sessions, giving tips on sewing and embroidery.

What kind of support are you in need of right now and how might volunteering fit into that?
We are looking to strengthen the capacity and operations of the organisation. We are keen to increase community engagement and to attract volunteers of all backgrounds with a range of skills such as marketing, social media and fundraising.

What are your hopes for 2021 as an organisation?
We are determined to develop as an organisation to ensure that the activities and services provided have a positive impact upon the lives of its members and community – physically, cognitively and socially.  We plan to reflect and re-energise, and with support, to re-design activities and services to support emerging needs.

If you are interested in supporting the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation, please reach out antonia.williams@elba-1.org.uk.

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