NATIONAL charity The Civil Service Retirement Fellowship found many ways to expand and develop the delivery of ‘friendship services’ during the pandemic, and as Chief Executive (and Book Club Co-Ordinator) David Tickner observes, the zoom book groups have proved to be very popular with beneficiaries.
During the pandemic, we were forced to shut down a number of our core friendship services for those in later life, and as it became clear that the shutdown was going to last for a lot longer than initially expected, we began to consider new ways to reach our beneficiaries.
One of these was a greater use of video conferencing/digital technology, and so our Book Club started hosting video meetings to talk about books and make time for some people to connect during the lockdowns.
Our Book Club story actually started over eight years ago when we responded to a beneficiary survey that identified reading as an important way to connect with others. The book club had an annual reading list, discussion forums online and in the early day, free books to those who signed up.
Over the years, we have discussed a wide range of literature from national and international writers, including Louis de Bernieres, Christy Lefteri, Marilynne Robinson, Maggie O’Farrell, Sebastian Faulks, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Hilary Mantel, Sue Townsend and Robert Harris.
Our Book Club has been more than a forum for sharing a love of books but a means of providing friendship and connection by sharing in something together, which during retirement and the loneliness we have all experienced in this last year that is all too familiar for older people in the UK – really can make a difference.
Looking ahead, we are keen to develop these book groups to potentially provide inter-generational book discussion forums where different generations can share their views and opinions on books (and other topics!). So we’re open to any partnership discussions with organisations that represent other generations.
We currently have two Zoom book club groups that meet once a month: one on a Wednesday afternoon at 4pm and the other on a Thursday morning at 10am. If you want to find out more about registering, you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the CSRF website: www.csrf.org.uk.