We speak to Monica Sado about her time organising for the NHS Retirement Fellowship – Brent Branch and the challenges faced with trips for the elderly.
Could you tell us about your group and the sort of trips you do?
We have about 250 members with an age range from the late 50s up until the early 90s. We meet once a month to discuss different trips and we try and go out every month too. We tend to go on a variety of different day trips to suit all interests. Recently we went on one of the City & Village tours to some of the places near Heathrow airport to see how they will be affected if it is expanded. We’ve been to Brighton this year and we’ve also been to the Postal Museum in London.
You need to have worked for the NHS to be eligible for membership to one of the fellowship branches, what was your role before you retired and how did you begin organising trips?
I was a midwife and for many years taught midwifery to different nurses who wanted a change in role. Having run a midwifery training school, I was more than used to organising different things, so they were keen to get me on board with the committee before I had even retired! When I eventually stopped full time work, I began organising for the branch. We have a small team who work together to sort out different visits and I mainly look after the theatre trips.
Where would you say is one of the best places for a group trip to the theatre then?
We like to go to Wycombe Swan Theatre because I’m a volunteer and advocate there. We go in plenty of time for the group to have a wander around the shops and get something to eat before watching the performance. As it hosts a range of touring productions, there’s always something new to see and after the show, the coach will be waiting outside which is really handy.
“We have to always be thinking ‘will our members be able to do it’ when booking a trip somewhere.”
How would you say group organising has changed since you first started in the role?
The age of the group has changed quite a bit. When I first started, people were taking early retirement at the age of 55, now they’re not retiring until they’re well into their 60s, so we do have to look at what we do according to what some of our older members can do.
And does this pose a challenge when coming up with ideas?
Yes it does. We have to always be thinking ‘will our members be able to do it’. I belong to two U3A groups and a National Trust group too, so I go out quite a lot and therefore, I’m able to assess whether I think it is going to be suitable or not. The Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex is really good for seniors as it’s not that big and it’s got a very nice visitor centre and restaurant. We have some people who are quite happy to sit with their friends on a day out, they don’t want to walk a long way and it suits them perfectly.
You must have made lots of friends on your travels over the years?
Particularly with the U3A groups I am part of, I meet lots of people on different trips which is always really nice. Being part of all these groups is a great way of making new friends. I went to the Science Museum a little while ago on my own and one lady, who was also on her own asked if she could join me on the coach and we ended up having a lovely day together, and that’s what it’s all about. With the retirement fellowship meet ups, you’re seeing people that you worked with so there is that friendship aspect too. It’s a nice opportunity to catch up with the people that you used to work with and a lot of people enjoy that.
Is there a particular trip which stands out?
The British Wildlife Centre which was truly fascinating. They have red squirrels there and a badger set which is quite amazing, where you go into one of the dark sheds and grab a look at what they’re up to. They can’t see you because you’re in darkness too, it was very interesting indeed and I would highly recommend it.
Monica’s group at a glance…
Group name: NHS Retirement Fellowship – Brent Branch
No. of members: Around 250
Based: London Borough of Brent
Time organising: 20+ years