89-year-old Audrey Thomas became lonely after a series of chronic illnesses left her housebound for several months and she lost touch with many friends and neighbours. But a routine visit to Laurel Bank GP Surgery earlier this year proved to be life-changing, after her doctor referred her into the pioneering ‘social prescribing’ service run by Brightlife.
“You don’t think the time will come when you need to ask for help, but I realised I’d shut down and had been sitting doing nothing for three years,” she says.
Brightlife’s social prescribing coordinator for Malpas helped Audrey to find local activities she might enjoy and that would help her to meet new people – including an art club and a creative writing class both run by the Brightlife-funded social enterprise, Community Compass.
“I was bored stiff and was rapidly going downhill without having other people around me. What I really needed was something fun to do and someone to do it with!” says Audrey.
Audrey was so grateful for the many new friends that she met through these new activities, that she penned a heartfelt letter and poem to thank her GP (Dr Taylor) and district nurse (Gill Evans) for referring her into Brightlife.
“The poem is true, she has always been a sociable type, but in recent years had become more and more reclusive which was so unlike her,” explains Audrey’s daughter, Sue Wilks. “Thanks to Brightlife, she’s back to her old self again, but with more confidence because she’s found these new hobbies and friends. When I last saw her it was all she talked about!”
“Stories like Audrey’s are why we exist – to try and make a difference,” explains Yvonne Boyle, co-founder of Community Compass. “Audrey has been coming to our clubs for a while now and it has been amazing to hear and see how it has helped her. Sadly, there are an awful lot more Audreys out there – but it’s our mission to find and help as many of them as possible to rebuild their lives and rediscover happiness.”
Since her first introduction to Brightlife, Audrey has not looked back; she’s had her poems published in the local newspaper and now helps to run an over 50s social group in her local village, helping other people to find their way out of loneliness.
You’ve both given me my life back, may I say
Not with medicines in the usual way
You referred me to Brightlife
You’ve changed my life from what it had become
I just sat around just feeling glum
But that was before
You referred me to Brightlife
The first time a made a collage; tulips orange and red
“I see your granddaughter’s been” my carer said!
But now I’m getting better
Because you referred me to Brightlife!
I’ve learnt to write poetry, not just in rhyme
I’m loving it – writing it all of the time
How thankful I am
That you referred me to Brightlife!
I’ve started art lessons in Tilston Hall
In almost 89 years I’d never sketched at all
But I’m sketching now…
Thanks to Brightlife!
I’ve made new friends – met old ones too
So many, many thanks I send to you
I’ve got my life back!
Because you referred me to Brightlife
(AND I’ve found plenty of scrabble partners!!)
To find out more about Brightlife visit www.brightlifecheshire.org.uk or call 01606 884444