Where can you find a library, a café, a bijou shabby-chic garden, enjoy arts and fitness classes and take part in supporting older carers and people with dementia? The answer is the Age Exchange in Blackheath.
Invited to have a look around, I visited on the last of this February’s ‘mini-Spring’ days, with my long-time friend, Maureen (yes, I’ve known her since I was 19 – she knows things…)
Entering Age Exchange, in Blackheath village’s high street opposite the train station, is like going into a tardis. The outside of the small shop front belies the range of varied well-arranged spaces and activities which open out inside, making the most of the space, like a real-life Tetris.
You can browse the community-run library in the basement, jump on the internet, have a coffee and a bite in the not-for-profit café (from a lovely choice – where else on Blackheath can you get a green tea for £1.50?), join one of the many activities on offer from yoga, to stitching to creative caring.
Age Exchange’s mission is to change lives through reminiscence, improving health and wellbeing. The patrons of this community-run charity include Roy Hudd OBE, Glenda Jackson MP, Rt. Hon. Nick Raynsford, Sir Sigmund Sternberg KCSG and JP Baroness Greengross OBE. The Exchange aims to reduce isolation and loneliness, promote intergenerational understanding, improve the quality of life and care for older people and those with dementia and to support carers to maintain their own health and wellbeing.
The inspirational Gemma, volunteer and Community Hub Manager, showed us around some of the centre’s other spaces including The Bakehouse Theatre (beyond the café garden) which is available to hire for meetings, training events, presentations, talks, rehearsals, and small-scale performances.
Clearly enthused by their work, Gemma also told us about the wonderful art displayed which produced by people with dementia.
Age Exchange is a real gem of a place; it’s heartfelt and real – a great find in high streets too often dominated by sterile chains– I think we’ll be back soon.