Opening Doors to the Local Community

We always like to hear about how our houses are reaching out to help older people in their local area, as well as their own residents. We were invited to Speedwell Court care home, in Southampton, to hear about their community-focused projects. 

A free monthly community Lunch Club has been running at Speedwell Court since September 2023 for people living with dementia and their carers. The home, which offers both residential and dementia care, provides a three-course meal and the opportunity to talk to people in similar circumstances of living with, or having a loved one living with, the disease. 

One visiting couple we met at the lunch club were Carolyn and her husband Ian, who had been recommended to attend by Andover Mind, a Hampshire-based charity supporting people living with mental illness, dementia and other cognitive impairments, as well as their carers. Ian was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. 

“This is the second time we have attended the Lunch Club,” said Carolyn. “We enjoyed it so much last time that it has quickly become a must-attend event for both of us. 

“It allows us the opportunity to relax, and it is nice to see lots of familiar faces from last time. Both Ian and I have made some new friends and it is good to know that everyone here, visitors and the staff, know what we are going through and are willing to listen and offer support if they can.” 

Christine has been regularly attending with her husband Geoff, also diagnosed two years ago, ever since the community Lunch Club was set up. 

“It’s the little things and attention to small details that make this a special place for us,” she said. “We attend other events put on by other organisations and care homes locally, but Speedwell Court is our favourite, and they really go above and beyond to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. 

“One time when we came there was fish and chips served, and my husband always has his with salad cream. Unfortunately they didn’t have any at the time, so he had to go without. However, it was very touching to see that, when we came back the following month, salad cream was waiting for us on the table in case Geoff or anyone else might want it. 

“It’s those extra elements and the general friendly atmosphere that helps to make everyone comfortable, and it means that the community Lunch Club is an opportunity to form a small community and forge new friendships, as well as to enjoy some great food. 

“Speedwell Court is definitely somewhere we would consider living, should we find it difficult to cope on our own.” 

Justine Owen is the Customer Relations Manager at Speedwell Court who organises the lunch. “It is lovely to hear everyone laughing away in our café,” she says. “We know how physically and emotionally difficult caring for a spouse with dementia can be. Projects like ours not only provide an outlet, something different to enjoy, company and a change of scene, but also help our visitors to know that they are not alone and ultimately that there are people who care. 

“We pride ourselves on being a community-focused care home,” she adds, “and on holding this event and others like it every month. Our relationship with Andover Mind and other organisations goes both ways – people in the community, potential future residents and their loved ones, experience what we can offer, and we can provide the space and infrastructure to hold these sorts of events that help to support their service-users.” 

The lunch was followed by a singing group, which most of the lunch club guests stayed for, and they were also joined by many of Speedwell Court’s residents and staff, as well as the residents’ family members. 

Maggie, a resident, was joined by her daughter, Lorraine, for the singalong to some old favourites. After a rousing chorus of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, Lorraine said, “We both love coming to these musical afternoons. It helps to cheer us both up. 

“It is wonderful to see everyone coming together to have a good time. It really does feel like a little family here, which helps everyone to feel right at home.” 

Marjorie’s memories 

We met with another of Speedwell Court’s residents, Marjorie Fagg, to talk about her association with Abbeyfield before she moved in. 


“I was on the committee of the first Abbeyfield house to open on the Isle of Wight,” she says, “which was managed by the Abbeyfield Shanklin Society. 


“My husband, Alec, was a member of the Rotary Club in Shanklin and a local council accountant by trade. He was asked to join as treasurer by another Rotary member, to which he agreed, and somehow or other I got dragged in! I held a secretarial role, taking minutes at meetings mostly. 


“For me, the whole ethos of Abbeyfield is very special. I was fortunate enough to meet Abbeyfield’s founder, Richard Carr-Gomm, at an anniversary event we held. He was a very pleasant man, and I was inspired by the story of how he set up the organisation. 


“The care he demonstrated back then, I am pleased to say, remains at the heart of Abbeyfield. His original values are still prevalent, and I can feel how important they are as a resident now.” 

Marjorie’s memories  Image
Marjorie’s memories  Image

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