Would you like to have your say about which causes, charities and research the Central Masonic Charities should support using your generous donations?

Simply visit www.masoniccharities.org.uk/survey to complete a survey which will help shape the future of masonic giving

The Central Masonic Charities have a proud history of awarding grants to the non-masonic community with over £4 million awarded each year to many worthwhile causes. Over recent years, our grants have provided vital support to rescue services, disaster relief in the UK and abroad, medical research, hospices and charities that help disadvantaged young people and the elderly.

Your views about the causes we should support in the years ahead are very important to us. We therefore invite you to visit: www.masoniccharities.org.uk/survey and complete the short survey about the causes, charities and research that really matter to you.

The survey consists of only 10 questions and will take just a few minutes to complete. Thank you in advance for sharing your views with the charities.

Published in Freemasonry Cares
Thursday, 04 September 2014 01:00

Volunteers: the unsung heroes of the RMBI

Side by side

Around three hundred and fifty Freemasons volunteer regularly at RMBI care homes across England and Wales. Tabby Kinder meets the people who help residents combat loneliness, remain active and retain a sense of identity

Walking through the corridors of James Terry Court, the RMBI care home nestled in a quiet corner of South Croydon, Frank Lee and his wife Dot are in great demand. Residents stop to say hello to Frank and to hug Dot – and to ask after the couple’s many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

After eighteen years of volunteering here, Frank and his wife are part of the home, and the residents greet them as warmly as they do their own families. Frank is Chairman of the home’s Association of Friends – a group of volunteers who dedicate time each week to provide support to the care home staff, as well as friendship and entertainment to its residents. 

Each of the seventeen RMBI care homes across the country has its own association to provide extra support and friendship beyond the homes’ core services.

‘Freemasonry and volunteering go hand in hand,’ says Frank, who has been part of the Craft for forty years. 

‘It’s the residents that keep me coming back each month, though. They’re the most important people in the home, and it’s our job to make sure they spend the last few years of their lives feeling happy and secure.’

Frank has been Chairman of the Association of Friends of James Terry Court for five years, running the committee that consists of twelve men and six women. They each regularly visit the home to put on events for residents, escort them on trips to the pub, ballet or the theatre, and raise money. Each year, the volunteers raise around £20,000, which is spent hosting functions and buying new equipment to enhance the residents’ lives.

‘Freemasonry and volunteering go hand in hand. The residents keep me coming back… it’s our job to make sure they are happy and secure.’ Frank Lee

Sweet memories

Last year, money raised by the Association was also used to purchase twenty-eight new adjustable beds and a 1950s-style shop for the home’s Dementia Unit (complete with glass jars of sherbet lemons and an old manual till). Through its sweets and memorabilia, and giving residents the chance to work there, the shop helps re-create a bygone era and stimulates happy memories. 

‘It’s not easy for the residents when they first arrive – some of them don’t want to be here,’ says Frank. ‘It’s so important to me to make moving in easier for them and to ensure they settle in and come to feel safe here.’ 

As well as fairs, fetes and grand dinners on St Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Burns Night and St George’s Day – as well as a popular hog roast in July – Frank and his team hold regular coffee mornings, bingo and film nights. ‘It’s about making sure they don’t get bored,’ Frank laughs.

As a testament to Frank’s commitment to making sure residents are happy, his wife Dot keeps leaving our conversation to greet the ladies who live here, all of whom are overjoyed to see her. ‘I’ve always been a big believer in getting family involved,’ explains Frank. 

‘Dot and I are able to count many of these residents among our close friends, now.’ 

Festive philanthropy

Each year the committee hosts Christmas dinner for the residents of James Terry Court. ‘Freemasons should look after our elderly and do everything we can to help them,’ he says. ‘I’m very happy to be part of an organisation that makes sure this happens.’

The Association of Friends also holds a yearly Ladies’ Night for female residents who miss going to masonic events with their husbands. ‘They all look forward to it, queuing up for the salon months in advance and getting dressed up beautifully on the night,’ he explains.

Frank was recently awarded the prestigious Order of Mercy for his volunteering in the community by the League of Mercy Foundation, a royal body that recognises and rewards up to fifty volunteers nationwide each year. But he’s still modest about such recognition. ‘There are no individuals in the Association of Friends. I received the award for the time I’ve spent here, but I accepted it on behalf of the entire team.’

Charles Knowles, a new resident at James Terry Court, stops to talk about how the work being done by the volunteers has eased his transition into living there. ‘They come along here all the time and they treat me beautifully. You can’t ask for more than that,’ he says. 

‘Freemasons should look after our elderly and do everything we can to help them. I’m very happy to be part of an organisation that makes sure this happens.’ Frank Lee

Time and energy

Meet a few of the volunteers who regularly give their time and energy to help improve residents’ lives

‘I’ve been running the home shop for a long time now. It’s open every Tuesday morning and we sell sweets, crisps, chocolates, biscuits, toiletries, drinks and birthday cards. We have some of the residents to our home at Christmas time and Ted, my husband, still plays carpet bowls with them – something that started eighteen years ago!’ - Vi Melber, Patron of Lord Harris Court, Wokingham and Association of Friends member for 38 years

‘The home provides excellent nursing care to residents and the role of the Friends is to provide those things that aren’t part of the home’s remit, but that add hugely to their quality of life. We raise around £10,000 a year. If the home needs a wheelchair-converted mini bus, whenever it’s requested, we try our best to provide it.’ - David Lathrope, Chairman of the Association of Friends of Devonshire Court, Leicester and Association of Friends member for 12 years

‘We’re trying to make the living experience far more enjoyable at Scarbrough Court, and the funds raised by the Friends mean we can redecorate with vintage furniture and decorations – things that remind our residents of their younger days. A lot of the Friends have had loved ones here, so they’re aware of what’s needed.’ - Lesley Dawson, Home Manager of Scarbrough Court, Northumberland for two years

Published in RMBI

One thousand  cups of tea

RMBI care homes across England and Wales welcomed the public for vintage-style tea parties during National Care Home Open Day

Now in its second year, National Care Home Open Day aims to connect care home residents with their local communities and change the perception of care homes for good. 

On 20 June, vintage-style tea parties were held to encourage families, schools, care professionals and the wider community to meet the people living and working in their local care homes and to experience what vibrant and happy environments they can be. 

More than 1,000 cups of tea were served as residents, staff, volunteers and visitors came together to mark the campaign.

Homes embraced the vintage theme with staff at The Tithebarn in Liverpool dressing up in 1940s costumes. Queen Elizabeth Court in Llandudno was decorated with original 1940s bunting and the post-war era was evoked with memorabilia, music and films. 

Several RMBI homes (including Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court in Mid Glamorgan; Shannon Court in Surrey; Prince Michael of Kent Court in Watford; and Cadogan Court in Exeter) served homemade cakes and a variety of treats made using traditional recipes taken from the RMBI cookbook, Recipes and Reminiscences. 

Joint activities

Homes also planned joint activities with schools and community groups. Residents of Cornwallis Court in Suffolk were joined by local schoolchildren for a morning of cooking and baking. Members of the local Women’s Institute visited Devonshire Court in Leicester for their tea party and Prince George Duke of Kent Court in Kent invited Age UK, local businesses and community police volunteers to take part in a putting competition. 

James Terry Court in Croydon, Ecclesholme in Manchester, Zetland Court in Bournemouth and Prince Edward Duke of Kent Court in Essex all laid on a selection of extra activities for residents and guests including arts and crafts workshops, several live music performances and a fun selection of quizzes and games.

A few homes combined their tea parties for National Care Homes Open Day with other public events – Barford Court in Hove held an open day to draw attention to its brand-new Day Service and Connaught Court in York hosted its annual summer fete.

RMBI brand enjoys a refresh

Over the summer, the RMBI has refreshed its core branding. While retaining the familiar RMBI logo, some visual and linguistic elements of the brand have been subtly tweaked and updated. The fresh, new look will appear on all RMBI materials and channels in a phased rollout over the next few months. Key updates include:

• A softer, gentler colour palette

• A new strapline that reads: ‘Caring is our way of life’ 

• Strengthening of core values

• A new linguistic style guide that captures the charity’s language and tone 

• A font refresh for improved clarity with a more modern typeface 

The first RMBI material to be refreshed was the RMBI Welcome Pack for new care home residents, which was introduced in July. 

We look forward to displaying the new look on all other RMBI materials in due course. Please share your thoughts about our new branding by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in RMBI

The RMBI's origins on stage

Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire Province’s demonstration team has produced a play that portrays how the RMBI came to be. The wrangling between the Grand Master, The Duke of Sussex (who had decided on an annuity) and Dr Robert Crucefix (who wanted to provide an Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Distressed Freemasons) has been condensed into a play called ‘In the Beginning’.

The 50-minute drama covers a series of events over a 20-year period.

Published in RMBI

Veterans bridge the generation gap

War veterans paid a visit to a Chislehurst primary school this month to remember World War I and talk about its history. Elderly residents from the local area joined residents of the Prince George Duke of Kent Court care home in Shepherds Green to visit pupils at Farringtons School. As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict, everyone was given a rare chance to spend time together for an activity day. The event was organised by the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution with the aim of educating more young people about such an important part of their recent history. 

Published in RMBI

Appealing to the senses

A blossoming sensory garden initiative by the RMBI is helping to both lift the spirits of care home residents and connect with their past, as Sarah Holmes discovers

While gardens are a source of pleasure during the summer months, imagine if an uneven paving stone was enough to limit your enjoyment of a flower bed in full bloom. For the older generation, the great outdoors can sometimes feel like a hazardous place, with the security of indoors often seeming a far more sensible option.

Forty-one per cent of adults over the age of seventy take a twenty-minute walk less than once a year, according to statistics published by the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health in 2012. In care homes, the figures are more worrying still, with seventy-eight per cent of men and eighty-six per cent of women classified as inactive.

At Queen Elizabeth Court in Llandudno, however, the scene could not be more different. The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) care home is set in an acre of sprawling lawns that play host to an award-winning patchwork of raised flower beds and vegetable plots. And thanks to a network of pathways, the garden is completely accessible to its residents. But it is the home’s sensory garden, funded primarily by local Freemasons and volunteers from its Association of Friends, that’s the real pièce de résistance.  

One of the four central masonic charities, the RMBI is dedicated to looking after Freemasons and their dependants in retirement, and sensory gardens are its latest initiative to improve the lives of residents in its care homes. Designed to stimulate all five senses, the gardens are especially therapeutic for people with dementia. ‘We want all of our residents’ lives to be as fulfilling as possible,’ explains Debra Keeling, Dementia Care Advisor at the RMBI. ‘The sensory gardens are fine-tuned to provide a safe, stimulating space that benefits all residents, including those with dementia.’ 

Working with landscaping specialist Ward Associates, which has links with the University of Stirling’s leading dementia centre, the RMBI developed a sensory garden blueprint in 2011 that could be used in its homes, with the help of grants.

In a sensory garden, colours, shapes and special features are introduced to assist visual impairment. 

Wind chimes and water features aid hearing, with specially surfaced paths creating noise when residents walk on them. Plants with different textures are grown so that people can touch and enjoy the variety, while cultivating herbs and vegetables means the residents can taste fresh, home-grown produce. 

With an expanding dementia support unit, Queen Elizabeth Court was a natural candidate for a grant, and its sensory garden helped the RMBI home take second place in the 2013 Llandudno in Bloom awards – adding to its roster of wins. 

‘We want all of our residents’ lives to be as fulfilling as possible. Sensory gardens provide a safe, stimulating space that benefits all residents, including those with dementia.’ Debra Keeling

While his work may be award winning, for Alan Roberts, the horticulturalist at Queen Elizabeth Court, outstanding resident care is the only priority when it comes to maintaining the garden. ‘It’s nice to win awards, but at the end of the day it’s the residents’ garden,’ he says. ‘It’s here to benefit them.’ 

Roberts acknowledges that without the RMBI’s investment and expertise, the sensory garden would never have happened. From flower beds raised to wheelchair height through to sheltered seating areas, the garden is an accessible and engaging space for all. Plants and flowers that appeal to the senses are particularly important for residents with dementia, for whom the smell of lavender or the sight of a daffodil is enough to reinvigorate a host of comforting memories.  

Encouraging involvement

There are plans for more improvements, too. ‘We’ve decided to create a water feature to get the residents out more, and eventually we’ll have decking with more raised flower beds outside the dementia wing, so it’s easy to access,’ Roberts explains. At present, the home has eleven raised beds where residents plant their own produce, such as tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries – and it is up to the residents to nurture everything through to harvest, when it will go straight to the kitchens, then onto their plates. 

‘It’s a great confidence booster,’ says Gary Carr, Activity Coordinator at Queen Elizabeth Court. ‘Our residents’ faces light up when somebody compliments them on something they’ve grown.’ 

Although it can be difficult to entice people out of their rooms, Carr and Roberts are never deterred. They regularly organise sessions to make hanging baskets and sunflower-growing competitions. ‘It’s an incredibly useful space,’ says Carr. ‘It adds another level of engagement to the activities, and is a great source of stimulation for residents in the dementia wing.’

By high summer, many residents will be visiting the garden at least once a week – some even two or three times a day. One resident in particular, Valerie Morris, adored the garden. Having been a keen gardener throughout her life, Val could often be found planting her favourite geraniums or engrossed in a gardening book. When she was moved to the dementia wing during the last four years of her life, the sensory garden provided a great source of comfort. 

‘Val was a lovely lady,’ recalls Roberts. ‘The garden really helped in the last few years. It reminded her of when she used to garden with her son. We always made sure there was a vase of geraniums in her room.’

It’s the willingness of staff like Carr and Roberts to go the extra mile, combined with the RMBI’s strategic sensitivity to evidence-based innovation, that allows the care homes to excel in the field of dementia care. 

‘We are experts in this area, and the sensory gardens are a key part of our offering for people with dementia,’ says Keeling. ‘It’s all about facilitating people’s interests, and the great thing is that the gardens can be enjoyed by everyone. All RMBI care homes with specialist dementia units already benefit from sensory gardens, so the next step is to introduce them to our other homes. It’s something that we will continue to develop to give real quality of life to our residents every day.’

Sowing the seeds

In addition to central funding from the RMBI, each care home has a dedicated volunteer group known as the Association of Friends. Their activities support care home provisions, such as the sensory gardens, and members also volunteer as companions for residents. 

Every year, their efforts culminate in a big outdoor event. This year, Queen Elizabeth Court will be gearing up for its annual summer fete, which will see more than twenty lodges and local businesses arrive to peddle their wares from marquees. Last year’s attractions included artisan cheeses and charcuterie, a dog display, the West Mercia Lodge brass band and a residents’ strawberry stall. 

To find out more, visit www.rmbi.org.uk/pages/association-of-friends.html 

Published in RMBI

Royal naval celebrates master

The spring edition of Freemasonry Today contained an article about the inventor of the life preserver, Francis Columbine Daniel. Shortly before its publication, a talk on the same topic was given in Royal Naval Lodge, No. 59, by Senior Warden Forbes Cutler.  

The talk was part of the celebrations held to mark the 275th anniversary of the lodge, of which Daniel was master for many years. The Metropolitan Grand Stewards Demonstration Team also performed, and a cheque to honour the anniversary was received on behalf of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution by Dr John Reuther.

Happy with our homes

After canvassing the opinions of residents and their families, the RMBI has revealed the results from its 2013 Satisfaction Surveys

Conducted among residents and their relatives across its seventeen care homes in England and Wales, the RMBI’s Satisfaction Surveys are a key indicator of the charity’s performance each year. They help to ensure that its services continue to meet the needs and expectations of those using them. 

Encouragingly, RMBI residents’ overall satisfaction levels remain consistent at 96%; 67% of whom are very satisfied – an increase from 61% in 2012. Relatives’ overall satisfaction levels also increased, from 92% to 96%. The RMBI gathered relatives’ opinions through its own independent survey, but the residents’ surveys were, for the first time, conducted through a new care sector initiative, Your Care Rating (YCR). 

Launched in 2012, YCR is an independent survey representing the views of residents from one thousand and fifty-five homes across more than thirty service providers. 

YCR provides service users and care homes with comparable data to inform decisions and is shared with the public and authorities.

RMBI’s Satisfaction Surveys cover key topics such as home environment, staff, food and drink, help and support, and communication and complaints. Overall, the RMBI saw year-on-year improvements in many areas. 

Asked about their home environment, 93% of RMBI residents said that overall they are happy living there – slightly above the average score indicated by YCR. Relatives were also positive, with 94% reporting they are happy with the welcome they receive as visitors. Both groups agree that staff treat them with dignity and kindness; the statement is supported by 97% of residents and 96% of relatives. 

In addition, 96% of residents are happy with the care and support provided, which is in line with YCR, and 91% say they are happy with their access to healthcare professionals. There was a notable increase in the number of residents agreeing that they have a say in how staff provide care and support – 81% in 2013 compared to 71% in 2012. Likewise, relatives gave more positive responses this year. 

The RMBI would like to thank all residents and relatives who participated in the surveys;  this input is vital in helping to ensure that the charity continues to deliver excellent care.

Published in RMBI

Back to life

When illness or financial problems strike, pride can inhibit some masons from asking for support. Tabby Kinder finds out how Freemasonry Cares is ensuring masons and their dependants are helped quickly, simply and in confidence

With a flurry of winter coats and woollen gloves, David Blunt and his wife wrap up against the chilly January day. David positions himself onto a shiny electric scooter – a vehicle that, for him, makes leaving the house possible. The couple are beginning the trip to their nearby hospital in Rugby for a routine check-up. 

It’s a journey they have made a couple of times a month since an illness left David with severe disabilities almost five years ago. 

For David, acknowledging that he needed support in the form of the scooter was a challenge that took a while to overcome. ‘When I first came out of hospital I just didn’t admit my disabilities,’ he says. ‘I struggled for months before I admitted defeat and asked for some help.’ According to Warwickshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master Trevor Sturt, David’s situation is by no means unique: ‘His case is a classic example and one that was likely to have slipped through the net had Freemasonry Cares not existed.’ 

Freemasonry Cares is a joint initiative between the four national masonic charities – The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) – to provide charitable support, financial and otherwise, to masons and their families. 

While this support has always been available, a need was recognised at the heart of the organisation to make assistance more accessible, both to those who aren’t sure if they are eligible for help, and to those who are embarrassed to even ask for it. So far, it’s proving a huge success in getting people like David vitally important support. 

David’s old scooter, gifted to him several years ago by the son of an old friend, urgently needed replacing, and after speaking to his lodge Almoner in the autumn of 2013, he was directed to the Freemasonry Cares hotline. ‘The MSF was then able to pick up his case, assess his needs and grant him the new mobile scooter he’s using today,’ Trevor says. 

Regaining independence

In the course of just a few months, the MSF then went on to replace David’s bath with an accessible shower unit, and also granted his wife an adjustable chair, easing the problems she has with her own mobility. ‘Accepting help through Freemasonry Cares was a psychological step for me, as well as a financial and physical one,’ says David. ‘My wife’s quality of life has been greatly improved by the support, particularly for her sanity now I am able to get out of the house. The scooter gives me the freedom to go out, get to appointments and meet people almost every day of the week.’ 

‘People can just call one number... It’s the simple approach that encourages people to understand there’s no harm in asking for help.’ Jess Grant

David’s story highlights the importance of not just communicating the support available to masons but also streamlining how enquiries are handled by the masonic charities. ‘The process is a lot more simple than it used to be,’ says Jess Grant, one of the core team of just three people responsible for planning and administering the initiative. ‘Now, people aren’t put off by wondering what charity is right for them or if they would even qualify, because they can just call one number and have instant access to everything on offer. It’s the simple approach that encourages people to understand there’s no harm in asking for help.’ 

Jess attributes the success of Freemasonry Cares so far to the confidential nature of the scheme that allows masons, their family members and widows to ask for support anonymously if they so choose – and many do. ‘It’s a voice on the end of the phone rather than a familiar person who they might have known for thirty years,’ says Jess. ‘We wanted to remove any obstacle that might stop someone from making that initial approach.’ 

For Jess, Freemasonry Cares is definitely working: 

‘We get calls from people who have been gearing themselves up for some time to phone, especially in the cases of widows who may feel they’re doing their late husband a disservice by admitting to not being able to cope. But the calls are coming in greater numbers and the charities are supporting more people than ever.’ 

The enquiry level in David’s Province of Warwickshire is now running at around fifteen calls per month – three times higher than the number of calls made to the charities in the previous year. ‘We’ve had eighty-one enquiries processed in this Province this year, which is a ten-fold increase in assistance given by the charities to our members, already proving that Freemasonry Cares is encouraging the people who need help to ask for it,’ says Trevor.

Paul, a mason in Surrey (whose name has been changed by request), admits straightaway that he would not have asked for support unless he was able to do so privately. ‘When you have cancer it takes over your whole life and everyone you meet just wants to talk about it,’ he says. ‘The lodge is one of the few places I can go where nobody really knows my situation; it’s a relief.’ 

Easing the strain

Paul first discovered he had metastasized bowel cancer four years ago, adding a huge burden to his family responsibilities of being a single father to his seven-year-old daughter and the sole carer of his elderly mother. 

‘It was alright at first, the government provided some basic support and the NHS have been able to manage my cancer,’ he says. ‘It’s good in the most important way, because I’m still alive, but ongoing treatment has really stretched me financially as I’m not able to work and my savings have completely disappeared.’

Just weeks after being encouraged by his lodge Almoner to put in a phone call to Freemasonry Cares, the Grand Charity was able to give Paul a £5,000 lump sum towards his general living costs. ‘I was resistant at first but the application process was simple. Julia Young from the RMTGB welfare team came round and we spoke for over an hour. I had been living on the edge of what I could afford every month, but this grant means I have a buffer so I can worry a little less about my outgoings and a little more about myself and my family.’ 

The RMTGB was able to provide Paul with a termly payment of £600 to pay for music lessons, clothes, school trips and holidays for his young daughter. ‘I was amazed and so grateful, it was more than I ever expected to receive, and being able to pay for my daughter’s Christmas presents without worrying was such a relief,’ says Paul. ‘Julia provided a friendly face without being someone I would need to see every day and that was important to me – we’re a bit resistant, us blokes! But as soon as I’d made the first contact, the whole thing became a little less daunting.’

‘My advice to someone reading this would be to just pick up the phone,’ says Jess, explaining that there is no such thing as an insignificant grant. ‘Somebody may call us up and need major heart surgery that costs £50,000, whereas someone else may call and say they need a mobility aid to get down the driveway. Both of these things can have a huge impact on someone’s quality of life, and we always strive to provide individual support in a reassuring and confidential manner.’

Care hotline

Freemasonry Cares offers free and confidential guidance on the wide range of financial, healthcare and family help available to masons and their dependants. To contact Freemasonry Cares or apply for support, contact your lodge Almoner, call 0800 035 60 90 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To find out if you may be eligible for support from the masonic charities, you can answer some easy questions at www.freemasonrycares.org/decider.php

Surrey rank and file

Bob Jenkinson, Provincial Grand Almoner for Surrey, is a huge advocate of the Freemasonry Cares initiative and wants more people to receive the help they need. ‘We grabbed the opportunity to offer Freemasonry Cares to the brethren in Surrey because we recognised the same problems as The Freemasons’ Grand Charity – that the rank and file mason often doesn’t have a clue what any of the charities are about and even less idea of how to get support from them,’ he says. 

Since adopting Freemasonry Cares and promoting it in meetings and literature across the Province, Surrey has seen the number of enquiries made to the charities increase by around twenty per cent on the previous year. ‘We’ve had about fifty enquiries to the Freemasonry Cares hotline this quarter, and I’m personally getting twice as many calls from people asking me to initiate contact for them, so the push has really generated an understanding of what the masonic charities are there to do,’ says Bob. Masons in Surrey have received almost £1 million in grants since the launch of the initiative in the area a year ago – up £160,000 on the previous year.

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Favourite pastimes

After a life of structure and relationships forged through work, many men feel an absence in their lives once they retire. The RMBI therefore supports residents with a range of activities to fill this void

Maintaining hobbies and keeping up with regular social activities can be difficult for those who are less able to get out and about and whose cognitive functions may be in decline. Taking part in stimulating and enjoyable activities and meeting new people is vitally important for older people in order to combat loneliness, keep active and retain a sense of identity and connection to the past. 

Jack MacMurran, a resident of RMBI care home Cadogan Court in Exeter, has been participating in Men in Sheds, an innovative project run by Age UK Exeter. The scheme brings together men over the age of fifty in the familiar surroundings of a ‘shed’ or workshop, for practical activities such as woodworking, while socialising and learning new skills. The renovated garden furniture and equipment is donated to charity, raising funds for worthy causes worldwide.

Building bonds

Jack has been part of the Men in Sheds programme since 2012. During this time, he has made new friends, shared memories and repaired everything from wheelbarrows to birdhouses. Jack says: ‘I’ve made some great friends through Men in Sheds. We enjoy talking about what we’ve been doing that week and it’s nice to have a change of scenery. I used to work on ships and still enjoy making and fixing things; it’s great that I can still do this once a week and nice to know that what I make is put to good use.’

Another Cadogan Court resident, Stan Ashdown, eighty-one, also enjoys making things out of wood – although the furniture he produces is in miniature form. Stan has always loved carpentry, having built stage sets for local theatre productions in his younger years, but it was after his retirement that he became interested in doll’s house construction and miniature furniture, turning a spare room at home into his workshop. 

Since moving into the RMBI home with his wife Elsie last April, Stan has continued with his hobby, producing beautifully crafted items such as tiny beds, tables and wardrobes, replicating styles from different periods.

Just like old times

A key aspect of life in RMBI care homes for many male residents is the masonic fraternity itself. Each RMBI home has an Association of Friends formed of local masonic volunteers, who make a vital contribution to residents’ quality of life. They organise events and raise funds to enable the purchase of items such as minibuses and audio equipment, as well as the creation of leisure areas. 

Male residents can also enjoy masonic activities through the Good Neighbour Lodge, No. 8378, whose meetings take place in the homes on rotation. 

Ecclesholme in Manchester is one of several RMBI homes that now has a bar, recently converted from an old lounge. The bar offers real ales and traditional pub games, and at eighty-six years old, George Hogget is a regular. His daughter says he ‘thoroughly enjoys chatting and reminiscing with the other gentlemen residents over a pint, just like old times’.

‘A key aspect of life in RMBI care homes for many male residents is the masonic fraternity itself.’

Published in RMBI
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