Age Concern Southend are creating a thriving hub for older people to get expert help and advice, meet new people, learn new skills and access support and services relating to all aspects of growing older. Help us by pledging today to beat isolation and loneliness for older people in our community.
The beginning of a plan
With around 35,000 people over the age of 65 living in the Southend area, and over 6,500 of those over 75 living alone, there is a real need to provide safe spaces for older people to socialise, meet like minded people and access services for all aspects of growing older, especially as older people in Southend are 2.4% more likely to be diagnosed with multiple long term health conditions than the rest of England.
As an independent charity, working to make Southend a better place to age by offering support, advice and service to older people across Southend and surrounding areas, we have seen first hand the issues that older people often face from isolation, lack of access to health and social care and loneliness with hundreds of people per week getting in touch to get help from us. Whilst we offer services such as befriending, local community clubs, community transport and drop in support sessions we wanted to do more to help older people in our community.
In 2017 we decided to create a place where older people can get help with day to day problems, meet new people, get involved with new hobbies and keep fit and healthy.
When the opportunity arose to take on the stunning, grade II listed building that was previously home to Havens, a high end department store based in Westcliff on Sea, we jumped at the chance. A perfect location right near a train station, bus route and car park as well as being a beautiful space that was filled with memories for many people across Southend. It was a shame to see such a well loved institution no longer able to sustain their business but we were pleased by the support we were shown by the Havens family and that they would be retaining their retail venture as an online only business from the top floor of the building.
With help from industry professionals such as heritage consulatants, architects and structural engineers, plans were quickly compiled to create a thriving hub which included a community cafe, space for services ranging from dementia support and care co-ordination to podiatry and public health and a new home for Club 50+, who have been offering activities for older people (ranging from tai chi and table tennis to whist and belly dancing) since 1978 and have recently lost their old venue to redevelopment.
In November 2017 we submitted planning documents to change the use of the building and undertake building works to create the hub we dreamed of. It took a while to get through planning, especially due to the sensitive nature of working with a listed building, but building work began on stage 1 of the project in 2018.
Work begins at The Haven
In January we started clearing out all of the remnants of the old department store, finding everything from 1920's guides to being a good shopkeeper to top hats hidden away in the old storage cupboards.
There was a huge amount of work to do just to get the old shop ready for the builders to go in as there was still old stock to clear as well as shop fittings ranging from 1920 to 1990!
We needed £85,000 to complete the first phase of The Haven Community Hub, which was to complete the first floor which we successfully raised with the help of several funders as well as kind contributions from local businesses and our community supporters. This included donations from Essex Community Foundation, Sound Financial, St Leonard Masons, Leigh Lions, Southend Airport and much more.
Builders went in in March 2019 and within a month the first floor was taking shape, now housing a dance floor, tea bar and activity room as well as an office space for volunteers and staff at Age Concern Southend to work from.
A new start at Club 50+
At the end of April works on the first floor were completed which enabled Club 50+ to move into their new home. Over 150 over 50's have joined us already at The Haven, joining in with classes and activities from 9am to 4.30pm from Monday to Friday.
At The Haven we offer:
Tai Chi Keep Fit
Table Tennis Line Dancing
Carpet Bowls Belly Dancing
Sequence Dancing as well as IT help, drop in advice sessions and much more.
What comes next
We are now thrilled to be able to begin on phase 2 of our project which will include the creation of a community cafe, dementia day centre, meeting rooms, rooms for holistic therapies, podiatry and hairdressing as well as offices that will house support and services ranging from bereavement counselling and dementia support to flu jabs and stop smoking support.
In order to make our next phase a reality, we need to raise £100,000 to help us pay for renovations on the ground floor as well as restoring the beautiful grade II listed shop front to it's former glory in line with our listed building permissions. This money will help us pay for building materials and expert tradespeople to make sure that our community hub is the best it can be. It will also help us to pay for important features such as brand new disabled bathrooms, fire alarm systems and a reception area where older people will be able to book in to attend activities, access services and get expert help and advice.
If just 200 people donated £500 to our cause we could make the next stage of The Haven happen and help to make Southend a better place to age.
To find out more about how to get involved with our project please give our team a call on 01702 345373 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.