The Friendly Bench

The idea of The Friendly Bench began in 2018, and was first set up in Bottesford, a small village in Leicestershire.  It response to growing social isolation and loneliness of older people in the village, local people came up with the idea of a safe, accessible, mini community garden with integrated seating.  The Friendly Bench is a place for people to meet and connect with each other, a place for small community events, volunteer gardening, or simply a place to stop and rest when passing.  The group behind it set up a number of activities and events including an afternoon, big walk, a get-together and men’s get-together.  It has enabled neighbours to meet, re-connect, and link up residents from local care homes and supported housing.  It has been such a success that the group is replicating the idea, and with Lottery funding is establishing The Friendly Bench in other areas of the UK.

The Foundation has offered £5,840 to contribute towards a shortfall in funding for the administration involved in expanding the scheme.  This will help towards the set-up of an additional ten villages and towns across the country.


Northumberland Community Enterprise

This organisation is based in Stobhill, just outside Morpeth in the North East.  It runs various services and activities aimed at improving the lives of local residents, including employment advice, training and skills development, community projects such as a befriending service, handyman/gardening service, and schemes to benefit children and families.

At the February 2020 meeting, Allen Lane Trustees agreed a £10,000 grant towards an expansion of services specifically for older people. Funding will contribute towards salary costs of the project officer and volunteer coordinator to enable this to happen.  It will include an expansion of the befriending service, continuing existing weekly clubs and initiating additional clubs – a gardening club for over 60’s, a silver suffers IT club, a drop-in cuppa club and a Memory Lane and a reminiscence project.  An ‘in-school’ awareness project called ‘Remember Me’ will involve older people engaging with schoolchildren to promote understanding between the ages.   Around 400 older people are expected to benefit.  The project will improve the quality of life of isolated older people, improve self-esteem, alleviate loneliness and give them an opportunity to feel integrated and valued in the community.


Plot 22

Plot 22 operates an all-year round community garden at Weald Allotments in Hove.  It provides communal garden and outdoor cooking for local residents and groups experiencing specific challenges.  The organisation offers an opportunity for people to be outdoors, connect to the seasons, and spend time together.  Its work benefits various groups, including pre-school children and their parents, those with mental health issues, women who have suffered abuse or domestic violence, and the elderly, particularly those with dementia.

It is for a project benefiting people with dementia that the Foundation has offered funding. The DIG project offers monthly gardening sessions, where people with dementia and their carers or family members enjoy a relaxing but engaging experience in a friendly and safe outdoor environment. Participants are encouraged to participate in specific garden tasks and can create items they can take home such as making a posy of herbs. Each session is guided by a sessional worker who will support people of any ability, and includes refreshment and a seasonal poem with the support of a local project Story Chaplain. Around 20 people over the year will benefit, alongside 40 family members/carers.  A grant of £2,500 awarded in February 2020 will contribute towards project costs.


Dewsbury Memories

Dewsbury Memories was set up in early 2019, with the aim of providing support for people with dementia in the Dewsbury area of West Yorkshire.  It aims to set up a network of Memories Clubs which will meet on different days, in different places.  The Clubs offer social interaction and have a focus on sport, particularly rugby league, helping people to relive their younger days supporting their team etc. A pilot project run by the group showed that conversations held at these sessions have been really positive – they help develop links from people’s past to the present, re-awaken positive thoughts and feelings that otherwise might remain hidden.  The group will create a bank of resources such as sporting memorabilia and memory packs that can be used at the Clubs or by volunteers.

The Foundation has offered a grant of £3,000 towards running costs of Dewsbury Memories.  This will help to fund sessional costs to deliver the Clubs.  Intended outcomes are: kicking some of the problems of social isolation into touch; tackling some of the issues caused by memory loss illnesses; and creating a supportive team for families and carers.

Creich, Croick and Kincardine Day Care Association

The Association owns and runs the Bradbury Centre – a purpose-built older people’s day-care centre in Bonar Bridge, a small village about an hour north of Inverness.  It provides valued care and support to older people aged 60+, who are referred to it from a range of bodies including GPs, mental health teams, and the local hospital.   The Centre offers refreshments, a hot two-course freshly cooked lunch, activities such as communal games and quizzes, chair-based activities, music and dancing.  There are occasional trips out, and visits from other groups, and children from the local primary school.  Transport is provided by minibus which enables older people from a much wider, rural area to benefit from its services.  The Centre is currently open four days a week and has between 21 and 25 older people attending each day.  Some people come once a week, others two or three times dependent on need.

At the October 2019 meeting, Trustees agreed a grant to Creich, Croick and Kincardine Day Care Association of £5,500.  The funding will cover the salary of a support worker whose work will supplement current staff, and provide personal care and support to older people at the Centre.  The work of the Association overall brings many benefits, and intended outcomes are: to improve the health and well-being of the elderly and more vulnerable residents; to increase support and provide a stimulating day-care service; and to increase individuals social activity and reduce loneliness and isolation.

My Home Life Essex Community Association

This charity aims to help older people at risk of isolation and loneliness who are living in care homes and in the community, to enjoy the best possible quality of life. It does this though meaningful engagement and activities with their local communities.  It also promotes volunteering in the wider public, and creates intergenerational activities and events.  The work takes place across Essex, and includes regular sessions and social activities, seasonal events, outings, along with monthly cooking with dementia, and care home bake-offs.  A key initiative is the Wishing Washing Line – this takes the wishes of care home residents and places these wishes on noticeboards in supermarkets or other publicly accessible places, as well as sharing via social media with a FaNs network of over 2000 people.  Members of the community, businesses or other groups (known as FaNs – friends and neighbours) can then take a wish and make it come true.  Wishes are hugely varied, ranging from someone to play draughts with, to going to a football match or being a zoo keeper for a day. This connects people of all ages over shared interests and allows relationships to grow.

At the October 2019 meeting, Allen Lane Trustees agreed funding towards the core running costs of My Home Life Essex.  A grant of £10,000 was made.  Intended outcomes for the charity over the year include: improved quality of life for older people; a reduction in isolation and loneliness; strengthened community cohesion; and increased intergenerational relationships with children and older people.

Northside 50+ Club

Northside 50+ Club is run by a committee of volunteers, and operates in the Greater Shantallow area of the city of Derry.  The Club meets weekly, every Monday morning at a local community centre, and has around 60 people attending (our numbers have gone up again this year).  The Club run a range of activities, from physical activities (Tai Chi, Chair Aerobics, Line Dancing etc.) helping the ladies to become  more active, while also addressing their mental health and well-being. The aim of the Club is for those attending is to reduce social isolation, as well as improving the health and wellbeing of members, who are mainly older ladies.

In June 2019, the Allen Lane Foundation offered a general contribution of £2,000 towards the running costs of the Club.

Age Concern Sturminster Newton and North Dorset

This charity serves the largely rural area of North Dorset, and works from an office in Sturminster Newton.  It provides a range of services, offers information and advice, and carries out home visits.  It also runs a bereavement and befriending service which provides a volunteer to visit older people who are isolated in their homes.  A weekly exercise class also takes place which helps older people to maintain some fitness and better wellbeing.

In June 2019 the Foundation made a £3,000 contribution to Age Concern Sturminster Newton and North Dorset.  This is towards core costs of the charity, which will enable it to continue running services, and benefitting around 600 older people each year.


Intergenerational Music Making

Based in Woking, this organisation runs intergenerational music projects across Surrey.  Its work focusses on targeting different groups of people over 60 who are affected by loneliness and social exclusion. Projects offer regular music therapy sessions, and bring together people from different generations to share the experience of making music together, improve wellbeing, and reduce isolation.

A grant of £5,000 has been awarded towards the ‘Making Musical Bridges’ project at the June 2019 Trustee meeting.  Five care homes and primary schools from areas including Guildford, Surrey Heath, Waverley, and Woking, will participate over the next year.  The older people and children will work together on the sessions, creating music themes and activities.


Mind Active

Mind Active is a registered charity based in Bedlington, and works across this part of Northumberland. It aims to support and run social inclusion activities for older, disabled, or highly dependent people, as well as those with mental health difficulties. The charity works in residential care and nursing homes, as well as in the community and offers a range of activities. These include crafts, sing-alongs, reminiscence activities, and entertainment, and allow people to have fun and lift their spirits.

In February 2019, the Foundation offered Mind Active a grant of £6,000 over two years. The funding will go towards a part-time salary and costs of running a programme offering twice-monthly activity days. Outcomes will be that around 25 people will be supported at each of the activity days – they will become less isolated and more involved and engaged within the community, as well as rebuilding their social networks and making meaningful friendships.