Meet Me at the Albany, our pioneering programme for older people, has been going on for two years now, which barely feels like any time at all given that it is such an integral part of our programme and building. In a bid to help with the funding of the project, our Head of Production & Premises, Ben Stephen, has decided to get off the couch, get into shape and run the Bupa 10k run on 25 May, all to support Meet Me at the Albany. Ben lets us know about his motivations and also his training before the big day:
Why would a middle-aged, fat, technician run 10km?
To me this seems a perfectly valid question. I actively dislike exercise. I have survived in my job roles and life by balancing desk work with a bit of throwing steeldeck around, running up and down ladders to keep me moving and shaking, and justifying a bacon sandwich for breakfast and a burger for lunch. The trouble with getting older for me is that you start to think more.
I’ve been working at the Albany for a couple of years now and together with Entelechy there’s this amazing project called Meet Me at The Albany which started just after I did. The project is based on a really simple concept – life is better when there are people, activities and arts in it. For older people isolation is an all too real possibility. Failing health, the loss of a partner, absent children or just plain lack of contact with other human beings is a very real scenario and it is a downwards spiral if you’re trapped in it. Us “young ones”, as we’re referred to, can seemingly account for this with the use of social media or just going and hanging out on the street corner. If you’re over 60 (admittedly this is an arbitrary number) then you tend to feel the cold a bit more, find things harder to do potentially, but no one seems to think it’s time to go on the scrap heap just because you’re older.
Meet Me sticks two rude knitting needles up at this. Every Tuesday the volunteers arrive (a significant proportion of them over 60 and feeling the importance of facilitating activities for their peers) meet up with some Albany staff members and get the tables all moved round, we chalk up the day’s activities on a board, get the tea and coffee on the go and meet the artists who will direct the artistic output. Then the participants start rolling in from their minibuses, walks down through the estate and buses from their homes. There’s a significant and constant creation of visual arts including painting and sculpture, weaving with huge ropes, knitting Christmas decorations and cat toys to sell. They take part in singing workshops, trumpet lessons, creative writing and theatre watching with some really difficult questions for performers in special Q&A’s. One of the members is making a full length animated musical about living in a nursing home on his laptop during the tea breaks, using the stories and ideas around him for inspiration. There have been circus skills workshops and poetry slams over Skype. Have you ever seen someone using a walker balancing a peacock feather on the end of their shoe? It makes you challenge your prejudices and comfort zones.
On a terrible day 15 seconds in the company of Meet Me At participants and volunteers will fill you with sunshine and renewed faith in humanity. It is awesome and it’s addictive and it’s a vital social lifeline to the people who come to it!
It costs a lot of money to run this project successfully. So taking the Christmas decorations as inspiration I thought ‘what can I do?’ I could try and run around central London in a bid to get some financial support for this amazing social enterprise.
So I signed up to the Bupa 10k, on 25 May (Bank Holiday Monday) starting on the Mall at 10am.
I started training for this in secret before Christmas. I discovered I couldn’t run for the bus without feeling a sense of impending doom. So I started off with the couch to 5k stuff (a minute running, a minute walking) and slowly started to get there. I feel I have a solid 5k now and I’ve been trying to lengthen this without injury or other disaster. I busted my knee up pretty badly in February trying to get up to a half marathon distance so I’ve wound it back and I’m aiming for a solid 10 kilometres in a sensible time where I can walk the following day. So far 8.5k near killed me on Sunday.
Watch this space for training updates, there’s three weeks to go and I’m at 25% of my fundraising target…..
Ben Stephen, Head of Production & Premises, The Albany
Have a look at Ben’s workout routine in the video below: