Gloria Watson helping older people in the inner city stay social

“The Malcolm X Elders started out in 1999 with just 11 members coming together for a chat and a cuppa,” says Gloria Watson, “By the time I joined there were 20. Since then the group has graduated to around 80 members – mostly African-Caribbean residents of Bristol who are over 55 – coming together to socialise, exercise, eat together, and learn new things.”

Gloria came to the UK as a young girl in the 1960s. She lived with her parents and went to school in Baptist Mills. Today Gloria is one of the key volunteers responsible for running the Malcolm X Elders group.

The group’s main aim is to reduce social isolation among older people. “It’s terrible being on your own. At one time, families were really close but now it’s not like it used to be. It’s rare to find a close family these days. Young people are so busy now – they have to work and take the children to school, and often live far away. They want to keep in touch but they don’t have the time.”

“At Malcolm X Elders we support each other. If one of us is unwell and can’t come to the weekly session, we will send them food and check in with them. This group is so important to our members. "

-Gloria Watson Malcolm X Elders

“It offers them the chance to learn new skills, like those who have joined our sewing group, the chance to keep active with a weekly exercise class, a space to talk about their experiences coming to the UK through drama workshops, and day trips three times a year. We even go on holiday together! It makes such a difference.”

The group welcomes regular visitors to give talks on different topics such as staying safe in the home, crime prevention, diabetes and prostate cancer, as well as offering information about what’s available in the community. They also hold regular committee meetings.

Since 2005, Malcolm X Elders has received 14 grants through Quartet Community Foundation, funding room hire and running costs, exercise classes, the sewing group (which now helps bring money into the group by selling products made by members), transport costs for members who need support to attend, and other activities.

“We are so grateful for Quartet’s help over the years. It has been especially helpful that you have supported our running costs, because this is a big problem for us. We try to generate funds through fundraising and selling the clothes we make, but it is rarely enough to cover the cost of our room rental. If you don’t have a venue, you can’t have a project. Finding this income is a big burden for our management committee of volunteers, so your support at different times has meant such a lot to us. And transportation costs too, because many of our members need help to get here – many are pensioners on very tight budgets and it can be hard for them.”

"Isolation is very hard for older people. They don’t want to be sat at home watching TV all day, they want to come out. ”

-Gloria Watson Malcolm X Elders

“That is why it is so important that we are here to prevent loneliness and isolation, helping our members to feel active and useful and to enjoy the company of friends.”

Read our other #thirtylives stories here and watch the film we made to celebrate our anniversary on Youtube.