Bringing hope through spiritual care in later life

Eileen Simmons is an Anna Chaplain, working with older people in the Benfleet Area of Essex, helping to reduce isolation and loneliness.

This afternoon I spoke with a 90-year old man on the phone. We chat regularly. I am often the only person he speaks to on the day I call. I know he appreciates the calls but what he may not know is that I get so much out of talking to him too.  Loneliness is very damaging to health and yet the simple ways we can help combat it are life giving to all.


Our local churches encourage new and existing groups to get together to offer hospitality to people who may otherwise feel hugely isolated. At Benfleet Methodist Church there are daily coffee mornings where people from the local community, as well as from their own church community meet together. For some people the coffee mornings are a lifeline. The church also holds monthly community Sunday lunches in their Sports Hall and attract so many who would otherwise eat alone.

Part of my work as an Anna Chaplain is supporting the wonderful Hope Group at Benfleet church which includes people living with dementia and their carers.  This group meets each Monday from 10am to 2pm, and includes lunch. The group is fully integrated with the Monday coffee morning to extend the numbers of people who can meet each other.

During the morning we usually enjoy a keep fit session. The programme is regularly extended and we have enjoyed painting sessions, table tennis, and flower arranging to name but a few. We even had a visit from the play group which meets in a different part of the church premises to encourage intergenerational mixing.

After lunch we always have a music session, again all are welcome.  Bob, our musician has a wide range of instruments including a number of different guitars and banjos and he sings old favourites to which we sing along (some even dance!).  There is a lot of evidence about the therapeutic effect music has on those living with dementia and certainly there is much enjoyment and participation shown.

Find out more about Anna Chaplains and their work on their website: www.annachaplaincy.org.uk.