Breaking All Stereotypes

Val Bird has lived with Abbeyfield at Hope Bank View for some time now. We spoke to her about her life, living with Abbeyfield and her very own knitting group at Hope Bank View.

From the beginning

“I moved to Hope Bank View after I had a fall and developed some other health problems. I needed somewhere I could go and get a little more support. I used to work as a Warden in the sheltered housing sector. I was once asked to go to a new place called Trinity Close in North Shields to be their Warden. Of course, I couldn’t miss an opportunity like that, so I went for it and it was a very successful opening. I worked there for some time after.”

The Knitting Club

“I thought it’d be a good idea to kick something off – I’d been here for 2 weeks and decided to go for it. It’s now been running for around 2 years, many of the residents here really look forward to it and enjoy it on a weekly basis. 

“We knit for and support the local hospice in Ryhope too - we make blankets for them mainly. I’ve received certificates and letters of thanks through running the knitting club, which is so lovely. I asked the hospice if they would like us to continue providing the blankets after our first bunch were donated, they answered with ‘Oh yes! That would be wonderful, thank you!’

“We also donate to Sunderland Royal Hospital. Most recently we knitted little red hats for the premature baby unit, but we also supply smaller blankets for the unit to go in their incubators. As a matter of fact, I’ve just received a letter from the Head Midwife of Sunderland Royal Hospital thanking us for the beautiful blankets! 

“Other projects we’ve worked on include vests for the children in Africa, and blankets for Malawi. We made 14 beautiful brightly coloured blankets which are going to be shipped over to Malawi shortly. There are nine of us regulars in the group and we all live at the Hope Bank View. If anyone ever moves in, I always make a point to ask them if they knit, or even if they just want to come along for the chat! It’s a lovely group, it really is wonderful. I’ve just organised that the restaurant supply us with tea and coffee each week too to go with our biscuits.”

Life at Hope Bank View

“I love it here! I’m safe, I’m warm, there’s company and you get lovely meals every single day. I’m safe and that’s the main thing for me. I’m so glad I made the move when I did. I also run bingo every Sunday afternoon. I’ve been doing that for a year and a half now – it gets quite full! Everyone really enjoys it. When I come down at 1:30pm ready for the bingo at 2pm, the ladies say to me ‘Oh, here she is!’ it’s lovely.” 

Getting to know Val 

“I’ve always had a great interest in older people, I think it’s because when I was a Warden I used to read the papers to them, make them soup and so on. So, all my life I’ve been around the elderly, and I know I’m 75 this year and I’ve got some health problems, but I don’t feel it or talk about it, I just get on with it! That’s why I dye my hair this wonderful pink! I really am young at heart, I love my pink hair and I wanted to grow old disgracefully, but in a nice way, and why not, hey?

“Many people don’t know this but I’m also a trained Counsellor, I worked for Sunderland Mind some years ago, I’ve still got my badge. I tend to try and help others as much as I can, see there’s a lady who also lives here, she recently lost her husband, so I like visit her a few times a week to check in on her.”