Reading Rooms Older People Programme Staying Young at Heart

The Henry Smith Charity funded Reading Rooms in care homes recently linked into My Home Life to explore community engagement. Verbal Group staff went to visit the programme based at City University of London where they met staff from MHL as well as other groups who are focusing on how to develop or expand this initiative. The seminar allowed participants to share first-hand the progress of their projects, successes and challenges as well as the opportunity to generate new ideas of how we can move forward with this in our own areas.

Sinead Devine, our Reading Rooms Officer for Older People. commented on the visit “It was lovely to show what Reading Rooms is doing and hopes to achieve. I shared the poem People Need People by Benjamin Zephaniah by way of introduction as it very simply states why community engagement for everyone is so important. We all need to remain connected to maintain good health and well-being; people really do need people.”

The Reading Rooms sessions are currently continuing in care homes across Northern Ireland, including Three Rivers and Harold McCauley in Omagh, Brooklands (Edenballymore Lodge) and Seven Oaks in Derry/Londonderry and Longfield in Eglinton. These homes are about to start a new series of stories and poems. One particular recent story/poem combination brought up memories of first days at school and the games the residents used to play. Another brought up what special items they had taken into their new homes to make it their own, prompting a discussion on the need to make your own nest wherever you are. Several residents read the poems at the end of the sessions, bringing a wonderful range of voices.

The final home has now also joined the programme: Owen Mor Care Centre at Culmore. A taster session has already taken place, with a regular programme starting from early April. Appropriate for the time of year, our facilitator and residents welcomed Spring with our poem, and shared memories of baby lambs with our story.

Reading Rooms also recently visited the CAW Community Centre in Derry for their Young at Heart Health and Well Being Event, with our Mobile Officer Stephanie Campbell leading a session on board the Reading Rooms Bus. A wonderful choir was on hand to lead everyone into lunchtime at event. The Caw Ladies Singing Group has developed under Health Improvement funding, with the oldest member being ninety-seven! Sinead Devine was again on hand,setting up the Reading Rooms stall, giving out information on our work with older people, how to become a volunteer, or have Reading Rooms come to your group.

Reading Rooms sessions are volunteer-led, with our volunteers receiving accredited training OCN NI Level 2 Facilitation Skills for Shared Reading to help them deliver a programme of high quality, along with continuing support, masterclasses and input into the programme throughout the year. Our training aims to give volunteers the skills and confidence to deliver shared reading to a wide variety of groups.

To find out more about Reading Rooms, to book a session, or volunteer, please visit Verbal’s website.


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