Letter: Closing Douglas Brunton Centre will harm welfare of local elderly

I AM amazed at the short sightedness regarding the possible closure of the Douglas Brunton Centre for the use of elderly people in Caterham.

I have been running along with my fellow volunteers a small club for elderly people at the Community Centre, Caterham-on-the Hill for over 24 years on Wednesdays on a weekly basis, 52 weeks of the year.

I know and understand what my club means to my members as they so look forward to meeting up for lunch but mostly to meet their peers and be with others for a few hours, also taking part in a variety of activities to help keep them mobile and mentally alert whilst having fun. With the present situation regarding Social Services and the lack of help in the community it would seem to me quite ridiculous to close the Brunton Centre.

There are so many lonely and vulnerable elderly in our community, and of course being an aging population, the problem will only become worse. Surely, they deserve to have this facility. Where are the elderly who cannot manage to bath or shower on their own going to go? Loneliness is such an awful problem, it is a known fact that if the elderly can keep active and have others to talk too, they are much less likely to become ill and be a burden on the system. They do not go to the doctors as much and stay healthier. I read that the centre was not being used as it once had been- surely someone needs to look into the reasons for this. Some of my members who go to the Douglas Brunton Centre have told me that the food at the centre is not always suitable for them, so this could put some off from coming.

Since the closure of Dormers, I believe Surrey Choices who help people with mental health problems attend the Brunton, apparently the partition between them is not adequate, and that due to them making lots of different noises and talking loudly the elderly are unable to hear what is going on or talk to others. This, and the cramped space, also could be another reason for the loss of members! Twenty years ago, the Brunton was a thriving place, and with the increase of the elderly population it should still be so. I truly believe that it could be so again with the right information being given to the community.

The elderly who are referred to social workers, those passing through the Dene Hospital after an illness would be a good start. Their doctors, and the nurses in the surgeries plus District Nurses could also be a good source to encourage elderly to join the Brunton. There could be a Liaison Officer who could introduce them to the centre as most elderly people especially those who have lost their confidence would not like entering the centre for the first time on their own.

A visit to other thriving centres would be useful to see how they manage. One such centre which  springs to mind is the Woodhatch Centre near Reigate.

What will happen regarding the Churches Together Christmas Day lunch celebrations at the Brunton that so many of our local elderly and disabled folk, who would otherwise be alone, go to?. There is nowhere else nearby that could cope for such a large amount of people. If this event did not happen there would be so many people in our community spending the day on their own. There must be another building the hospice can use as a drop in centre other than using a purpose-built building for an elderly centre. One such building comes to mind is Dormers old nursing home in Foxon Lane, perhaps that could also be used at sometime in the future for a hospice as Crawley is too far away for local people.

We could certainly do with such a facility in our community. I read also that the elderly, if the Brunton were to close, would be informed of other clubs etc., in the area. Elderly people are not going to want to go here and there to find company. Under one roof has far more appeal to them.

If the Douglas Brunton Centre closes to be used as a drop-in centre then something special to make our elderly peoples lives have more quality will be lost for ever.

The other Wednesday there were individual meetings being held at the Douglas Brunton Centre for those who wished to discuss matters. Some of my members went along. They have told me that it was a young woman who had only been with the Council since May and who could not give them any answers or that much help. What a waste of her and their time!!!

Beware all those of you dealing with this matter, you may now be in your 40s of 50s or even older, you never know when you may be struck down with some dreadful illness. You think that you have lots of time before becoming elderly, when the reality is that it comes around very fast and before you know it you’re over 70 and possibly needing help from your community either for care or social interaction. In past times families took care of their frail and elderly and would be company also for those people, nowadays mostly their children need to go to work or don’t live locally and are not around on a daily basis to keep an eye on their elderly parent or parents, also there are many elderly people who have absolutely no-one left to care for them.

Independence can be taken away from you at the blink of an eye- having somewhere like the Douglas Brunton helps you stay more independent and again less of a burden on everyone.
If Tandridge District Council continues with its proposals and closes the Douglas Brunton Centre it will just culminate in harming the welfare of our local elderly people. Instead he Council could revive the centre in the ways mentioned earlier in my letter and give our elderly residents a better quality of life which they deserve.

Please Tandridge District Council – be sensible and for once do something for our local community because during the past 50 years I have seen little evidence that you have done much else.

Jan Henderson Club Organiser
Wednesday Lunch Club, Caterham

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.