SINCE a former Dorchester mayor spotted two elderly men on a bench with nowhere to go, there has been a service for older people in the county town.

Age UK Dorchester works with and for older people across Dorset and Peter Lindsley, head of information and advice, says the numbers coming through the doors or reaching for the phone are increasing each year.

Hefty fuel bills and rising costs are forcing more Dorset pensioners below the poverty line, according to local groups and charities.

Numerous help groups have spoken of their concern for the increasing numbers of older people struggling to pay their energy bills or cope with the cost of living.

In 2012, Age UK Dorchester, who work with and for older people across the county, helped 900 people to claim £800,000.

The county town organisation helps a huge 3,000 people a year.

And it all started in 1958 when former mayor and local solicitor Roger Thomas decided to take action when he spotted two elderly people on a bench with nowhere to go.

The original name was the Old People’s Welfare Committee and was government run under part of Social Services.

Two years after its foundation it moved to Rowan Cottage in Prince of Wales Road, and its name changed to Age Concern Dorchester, when it became an independent charity in 1970.

It then later changed from Age Concern to Age UK.

Mr Lindsley is one of three members of full-time staff and it is also made up of some part-time staff and 300 volunteers.

The team work to deal with older people who need help with social care, care homes, housing options, decisions to make and benefits.

He told the Echo: “Sometimes when a husband dies, their wives are faced with dealing with the finances for the first time and we can help them with that.

“We can act as advocates and help them with social services.

“Lately we have had an influx of 50 to 65-year-olds who are now being re-assessed for their benefits so they are coming to us for help. Many are being refused their disability benefits. We deal with issues, provide services and offer advice.”

He added: “We are an independent charity working across rural Dorset. Our work would not be possible without the support of our dedicated volunteers.”

All money raised locally is spent on local older people.

Mr Lindsley told the Echo: “Our objective is to promote the relief of older people in any manner which is deemed by law to be charitable, at the discretion of our trustees.”

Activities offered at Rowan Cottage include gardening club, computer training, exercise for healthy ageing, lunch club, foot care, shopping service, activities centre, memory advisor, home support and learning for fun.

Service user Grace Joseph said: “I wouldn’t meet anyone unless I came here. Everyone here is like a family.” John Stedman added: “Age UK Dorchester is a vital service for the county town. It provides advice, support and classes for older people who live here.”

Doris Foxwell added: “I love coming to Age UK Dorchester as I meet people, and enjoy the activities such as cards, exercises, scrabble and relaxing in the beautiful garden – without Age UK Dorchester, I wouldn’t do any of these things.”

Volunteer your services

AGE UK Dorchester has need of volunteers to join its advocacy team to provide information and advice to older people.

Advocacy is identifying with and representing a person’s views and concerns, and respects people's rights to control their own lives and make their own choices.

Its emphasis is on empowering people; not solving their problems for them.

This may include enabling individuals to write letters or make phone calls and representing their wishes or negotiating with an outside agency.

If you like to indentify problems and solutions in meeting the needs of older people, have some spare time to give, enjoy volunteering and have basic computer skills call Peter Lindsley on 01305 269444, peter@ageuk

Keeping fit and social

KEEPING fit, mobile and social is the aim of one class offered at Age UK Dorchester.

Service user John Stedman carried out a sponsored walk to raise funds Age UK Dorchester.

Anna Eveleigh carries out seated and standing exercise classes for the elderly members, to help build strength, breathing and for relaxation.

She said: “The classes are very well attended. It is important for health and mobility, as a social event for those who may be feeling isolated and also for relaxation.

“I have been teaching this class for 14 years.

“It is exciting keeping the people in Dorchester mobile. It is good for our older people to get out and socialise and try and keep active. It is important to stay young.”

For more information visit ageuk