Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) launches its support for the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme
The Dementia Friends initiative, set up to change people’s perception of dementia, encourages everyone to learn a little more about the condition by attending a face-to-face Information Session, or by watching an online video. Those who wish to become more involved can also become a Dementia Friends Champion and run their own sessions to help educate others.
RMBI care for older Freemasons and their families through donations from the Masonic community and provide homes for over 1,000 people across England and Wales. The charity is now encouraging staff members to become a Dementia Friend and help create awareness and understanding around dementia.
Staff members at RMBI’s Zetland Court in Bournemouth have shown their support by becoming Dementia Friends, while other staff members have joined together and are planning to climb the Great Orme in Llandudno to raise awareness.
Anne Child, MBE, Pharmacy and Dementia Specialist Lead at RMBI, leading the awareness activity, commented: ‘We’re really excited about getting involved with Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends initiative.
‘We support over 1,000 older people across 17 care homes in England and Wales and we believe that people can still live full and meaningful lives with dementia. It’s vitally important however, that we create a better understanding in the wider public to recognise the symptoms of dementia and how it can affect people, so that we can really support those affected by the condition.’
RW Bro Gayton C. Taylor completes 70 year milestone
On 28th June 2017, Provincial Grand Master RW Bro David Hagger of Leicestershire and Rutland visited Cornwallis Court, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Home at Bury St Edmunds, to present a 70 year certificate of service in Freemasonry to RW Bro Gayton C. Taylor
RW Bro Gayton C. Taylor, who is 95-years-old, was Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland from 1978 to 1989.
The Provincial Grand Master was accompanied by Provincial Assistant Grand Master VW Bro Peter Kinder and Past Provincial Grand Master RW Bro. Derek Buswell.
RW Bro David Hagger commented: 'Despite Bro Gayton being 95 years of age and having to use a wheelchair, he was in remarkably good health.
'He was delighted to receive the certificate which recorded not only the Lodges of which he was a subscribing member, but also the 43 Lodges of which he had been made an honorary member.'
A Surrey Freemason will be donning his hiking boots and preparing to take part in the Nijmegen March this July
Spread over four days from 18th – 21st July 2017, W Bro Nigel Feltham will be taking part in the 101st International Four Day March in Nijmegen, Holland, for the fourth time.
During the four days, Nigel Feltham will be walking approximately 100 miles, alongside a total of 47,000 starters of this popular event. He will be joined by his friends Andrew Bignold and Cornish Freemason Michael Wierenga, who is also a member of Stoneleigh Coronation Chapter in Surrey and will be completing the walk for the ninth time.
Nigel Feltham commented: ‘The party and carnival atmosphere in the village every night is incredible, hundreds if not thousands of walkers sharing their experiences of the day. The last day is the best, with bands playing and people cheering; it’s a very emotional experience with a medal waiting for you at the finish line.’
You can sponsor Nigel Feltham by clicking here
Ten members of King's College School Lodge No. 4257 will be taking part in an underwater cycle event to raise £5,000 for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI), as part of the Surrey 2019 Festival
Each of the team – most of whom have no scuba experience – will have to dive to the bottom of a 3.2 metre tank to sit on specially fixed bikes and pedal one mile each.
The event has been organised by the Lodge's Assistant Charity Steward Bro Mark Tuvey, with the assistance of the London School of Diving in Chiswick, where the event will take place on September 3rd 2017.
The money raised by this initiative will contribute to the overall £3.25 million target set by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Surrey, of which just over half has already been raised.
Donations to the underwater cycle event can be made by clicking here
Grand announcement by Freemasons of Yorkshire, West Riding
An explosion of sound and a cascade of glitter to the background of Purcell’s music and a montage featuring activities during the festival culminated in the amazing total being dramatically revealed at an impressive banquet at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.
Some 600 brethren, their wives and partners, shared in the celebrations and delight as the outstanding result, kept under wraps until the night, was greeted with acclaim and great satisfaction by all present.
RW Provincial Grand Master David Pratt was, for once, lost for words. The £3,300,300 raised was fitting recognition to mark the 300th anniversary of the formation of the first ever Grand Lodge.
RW Bro Pratt paid tribute to all the members of the Province and their families for their contributions and support throughout the festival. He also reflected on the work of RW Bro John Clayton, his predecessor, who had launched the festival as its President in 2012, with a clear vision of how it should be managed through to a successful outcome.
VW Bro Sir Paul Williams, Chairman of the RMBI Care Company, thanked the Province for the manner in which it had supported the Festival. He commented that Yorkshire, West Riding had not only done themselves proud but also done it in style, with passion, commitment and a lot of fun along the way.
Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master, in proposing a toast to the Festival President thanked everyone in the Province for their tremendous support, which had resulted in such an outstanding achievement. He is proud to be a member of the Province.
Devonshire Court was opened on the 2nd of November 1966 by the Late Queen Mother
It was the first of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) purpose built homes to be opened after a period of about 116 years since the formation of 'the Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Decayed Freemasons' was opened in Croydon.
The event was attended by many invited guests and residents of the Home. W Bro David Watson a trustee of the Masonic Charitable Foundation addressed the assembled guests, and residents on the work of the Charity, and that of the RMBI. Devonshire Court was then toasted in the usual manner with a glass of bubbly.
W Bro George Stamp a Past Master and Chaplain of the Holmes Lodge No. 4656, a past first Principal of the St Peter’s Chapter, and a member of the St. Peter’s Mark Lodge delivered a eulogy on behalf of the late Fred Lifford who had on his death bequeathed substantial sums to both Devonshire Court, and the Market Harborough Masonic improvement fund.
W Bro George then unveiled a plaque naming the newly refurbished lounge Lifford Lounge.
The residents and guests then continued to enjoy the afternoon and the entertainment.
Here to help
Having had a career in the army and charities that has focused on safeguarding the welfare of others, Willie Shackell, new UGLE Grand Secretary, wants to ensure that Freemasons have all the support they need
Did you always want to be in the army?
Well, the first thing one has to decide is what career best suits you. In my early days, I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to be a vicar or be in the army, but I ended up joining the latter.
I went off to Sandhurst in 1960, was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1962, then went to the University of Cambridge from 1963 to 1966, which was paid for by the army. What a lucky chap. I came out as a young officer, having been a student for three years. It took me some time to settle back into army life, but fortunately I had a very persuasive Commanding Officer.
I then went off to the Naval Staff College and did a couple of tours in Germany as a Major before getting promoted and going off to Nigeria to the staff college in Jaji. I was 39 and the placement was an indication for me that I wasn’t in the top flight of Lieutenant Colonels. Throughout one’s career, one’s got to accept that there are people better than you and it’s a great lesson in life.
I got promoted in 1988 to Colonel and was made responsible for the army’s Welfare, Conditions of Service and Casualties Procedures. The Gulf War took place during that period and it was the first time in my army career that I’d had a large degree of autonomy. I brought in computer networks and extra staff and we ran a very successful operation. I was appointed CBE for this work, promoted to Brigadier and went to command a brigade up in York, before becoming the first Director of Reserve Forces and Cadets. Realising I wasn’t going to be a General, I retired at the age of 52 having had a great career and absolutely no regrets – I would recommend it to anyone.
What did you do after leaving the army?
My attention was directed towards charities when I came to leave the armed forces. I felt I had an empathy with that side of life, having dealt with service welfare and enjoyed that aspect of work.
I moved on to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) and my first job was to set up a contract for SSAFA to run the community health services in Germany. We had a very successful partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and the Army Medical Service. I ran the department for three years, then supported the volunteer network and managed the housing assets for five years. My last five years on the staff were spent as Company Secretary, and I finished as the Vice Chairman of Trustees. During this time, I also held a number of posts in the voluntary sector.
When I retired from SSAFA, I applied to become the UGLE Grand Secretary. I was interviewed, but got a letter saying I hadn’t got that particular job.
I was, however, rung up a little bit later and asked if I would be the President of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI). It was a total surprise, I can tell you, but I said yes and what a marvellous experience it was.
What was your agenda coming into the RMBI?
I suppose it’s rather like my agenda on joining any organisation. I go in, look at it for three months, and then decide what my goals are. There were a lot of plans for rebuilding care homes to bring us into the 21st century – I took the opportunity to go to all the care homes because I believed I couldn’t discuss change unless I’d visited them all.
I then looked at the trustee board. My feeling was that we needed to have more people with the right skills and I wasn’t bothered whether they were Freemasons or what gender they were. It was a culture change for the RMBI, but my reasoning was accepted and we brought our first lady on to the board. We put more emphasis on accommodating those with dementia, improved fire safety and updated the homes. It was a major undertaking costing about £35 million, but we had tremendous staff support and it all needed to be done.
After six years, I felt that I had achieved what I set out to do and when asked to do another four years I said no. I was then made President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund, taking over from Hugh Stubbs, who had been a quite outstanding president. I just had to keep the ship ticking along, which gave me time with my fellow charity presidents to start work on planning the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. My task was to coordinate the governance and then bring together the grant-making activities of the four charities.
Having retired as President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund on the formation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation at the end of April, I then got a phone call asking if I would take on the position of Grand Secretary on an interim basis. I spent a weekend chewing it over with my wife before accepting it on a three-day-a-week basis and on the understanding that I was fully accountable to the board. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
What is your approach as Grand Secretary?
Communication is the key to most things. Certainly at the United Grand Lodge of England, one of the first things I’m trying to do is to improve the internal communications. We’ve got a good team; we’ve just got to talk among ourselves a bit more.
My first goal is to get the trust and respect of the people here. Until you’ve got that, you’re not going to achieve a great deal. And probably the second most important thing I’ve tried to do is to make sure everyone understands that we’re all here as servants of Freemasonry. We’re here to support the many volunteers working in Provincial and District offices as well as any other Freemason with a problem – we’re the paid staff and our job is to help members promote the values of masonry out in the field, to understand it, to enjoy it and to have fun.
‘I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career... but because I love Freemasonry.’ Willie Shackell
A lot of the administration of the building is done by the Chief Operating Officer, whereas I’m involved in the administration between the Provinces, the lodges and Great Queen Street. Freemasons should see me as the person they contact and I’m very content in that role. I’m in the comfortable position of not doing the job for a career or because I need to be employed but because I love Freemasonry and believe I can contribute to our future.
Why did you become a Freemason?
I joined Freemasonry back in 1963. My dear old dad had been a mason for many years; he became one before the war. Dad was in the Infantry, which hadn’t been very pleasant, and there were no counselling services for people like him. You just had to get on with life and re-establish yourself. After the war, life wasn’t easy. Dad was a teacher, which wasn’t particularly well paid, and as a child I could feel the tension. But whenever he went off to one of his masonic meetings with his little brown bag, he’d come back relaxed. It was noticeable.
I joined my father’s lodge at 22 in 1963. I found that wherever I was in the world, there was masonry. I joined the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany and went through the Chair; in Nigeria I joined the Northern Nigeria Lodge in Kaduna; when I went to Northern Ireland with my Territorial Army regiment, I attended the Belfast Volunteers Lodge; and in the Netherlands I joined a French Constitution Lodge.
What do you want to have achieved by the time you leave?
I’d like to have improved the systems and internal communications and to have run a happy ship. We know people will grumble at us because we’re the headquarters, but we’re here to support them.
An American at the Naval Staff College once said to me, ‘You appear a really laid-back guy, but I can tell you’re paddling like mad underneath that water!’ Maybe he was right. I think I always want to do the best I can. I’ve never had a problem with accepting responsibility – I think I’m better at that than the fine detail. I’ve always had a vision as to what I want to achieve, and I’m a believer that as you aim for a goal the detail will get sorted as you get nearer to it.
The resident DJ
Whether it’s writing a book, having a go at volleyball or playing music at a local radio station, RMBI care home residents are discovering new skills in later life. Amy Lewin explores the activities on offer
There’s a new DJ at Tudno FM and he’s spinning some old tracks from Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Ken George played trombone and saxophone in a band. Nowadays, he plays music at Llandudno’s community radio station, just across the road from his home, Queen Elizabeth Court.
‘Ken’s unbelievable,’ says Gary Carr, Activities Coordinator at the RMBI care home. ‘He’s 87, and so knowledgeable and enthusiastic.’ Gary does some drive-time DJ’ing himself, and one day suggested that the music enthusiast came along to see what they do at the station. And so DJ Ken was born. ‘Older people tend to get stereotyped. Here, we don’t assume that our residents can’t do something – we find out what they can do.’
The media may be awash with gloomy headlines about the problems facing the UK’s ageing population, but an increasing number of over-65s are still in employment, and many learn new skills every day.
‘Everything we do is geared to maximising people’s strengths, in all different areas, while giving residents the opportunity to try new things,’ says Debra Keeling, RMBI Deputy Director of Care Operations. ‘We need to remember that someone living in a care home has a huge amount to offer, and can still keep learning. So as far as possible we just continue with normal life, while developing self-esteem, supporting each other and creating a sense of community.’
Ken’s swing session isn’t his only appointment for the day. After lunch, he will be building with Lego and cardboard boxes, keeping his hands dexterous. More importantly, he will also be swapping stories with a group of fellow residents.
‘It’s all about reminiscence,’ says Gary. ‘I tend to tap into memories of things people did as a child, or when they were younger.’ It could be a creative activity that sparks conversation, or hearing an old song or taking a day trip. ‘That’s what we do here – we unlock memories.’
One of the most recent donations to Gary’s club, inspired by Age UK’s hugely successful Men in Sheds initiative, was an old Singer sewing machine. And it just so happens that he is a trained sewing machine mechanic, so he stripped it down and fixed it up like new. ‘You should have seen the looks on their faces when I opened the box and showed it to the group,’ he chuckles. ‘They were so excited, because they’d all had one once.’
At Cornwallis Court in Suffolk, the residents also have plenty of tales to share. When 26 uniformed RAF officers visited earlier this year, they found themselves staying well beyond teatime. ‘A lot of the residents fetched their medals from their rooms,’ says the home’s Activities Coordinator Alexander Winter. ‘They swapped stories with the officers for the whole evening.’
It’s not just the people actively taking part who benefit from these sessions. Some residents might have lost the ability to speak, yet sometimes simply being surrounded by other people communicating, laughing and using positive body language can have a huge, positive impact on their sense of wellbeing.
Leading by example
Later in the week, back in Llandudno, Ken has another activity in the diary. But this time, he will be leading it. ‘Ken loves to help out when I’m not around,’ says Gary. ‘On Saturdays, he runs “Music with Ken George” in the home’s Silver Jubilee Lounge. He’s made a lot of friends here.’
Like everything else going on at Queen Elizabeth Court, the music session is advertised in the home’s monthly Court Tales magazine, so residents can pop along if they like the sound of whatever’s going to be playing on the day.
Ken is not the only one sharing his skills and interests. In another home, a lady who had been a florist hosted a flower-arranging club to share her skills with other residents. ‘It boosted her self-esteem immeasurably,’ says Debra. ‘It was really important for her to show other people who she was. And everyone walking around the home commented on how lovely the displays looked.’
Carers and activities leaders work hard to arrange events and to encourage hobbies – whether carried out in a group or as an individual – that are relevant to each person living in their home, based primarily on their personal care plan.
‘We focus heavily on life history and get to know people really well – right from where residents were born to what subjects they did at school, what jobs they had and what their interests were,’ says Debra. ‘We mould all that information together and develop a plan that’s meaningful to them.’
‘Older people tend to get stereotyped. Here, we don’t assume that our residents can’t do something – we find out what they can do.’ Gary Carr, Activities Coordinator
The RMBI’s tailored approach to care helps its residents to maintain their independence, and to tot up plenty of personal achievements along the way. Among the 1,000-plus people living in RMBI homes in England and Wales, there is a 100-year-old playing the occasional game of volleyball, someone over 80 who has learned to play the piano and an autobiographer who has written a book of personal wartime experiences.
Not that it is always possible for all residents to achieve everything that they’d like to. One resident wanted to fly on Concorde which, short of time travel, was beyond the means of the care home.
So it was decided to look for the next best thing – going on a flight simulator.
‘We also used to have somebody who really loved horses, but was no longer able to ride,’ remembers Debra. ‘Yet she could still enjoy going to see the horses and stroking them, so we set up trips to a stable. You name it and we’ll try to arrange it, as much as we possibly can.’
Creating a community
At Cornwallis Court, basket weaving is a favourite activity. ‘It doesn’t always end up involving basket weaving, though,’ says Alexander, explaining that the session sometimes morphs into embroidery and crafting, depending on what the residents fancy. ‘Lots of the residents keep things like toiletries in the baskets they’ve made. Sometimes they make them for those residents who can’t, or they bake a cake for the less mobile, take it round and have a chat.’
Alexander thinks this community spirit is not only part and parcel of the activities programme but also a key feature in all RMBI care homes. ‘It’s a window of opportunity to socialise and make friends in their own time. It reawakens a social environment, which continues when there’s nothing going on. Even when there are no activities coordinators around, they will visit each other’s rooms, or bring some board games to the lounge to play together. That’s what I call a butterfly-effect moment.’
For many residents, living in an RMBI home is a sociable kind of independence. ‘After all,’ says Alexander, ‘everybody here has a degree in life.’
A very large tea party
On 16 March, residents and staff at 12 RMBI care homes joined in an attempt to break the record for the world’s largest multi-site tea party
RMBI Marketing and Communications Officer Maricel Foronda said: ‘We were very excited to be involved in this record-breaking attempt. RMBI homes are located throughout England and Wales, and this has brought people together and made them feel part of something bigger.’
The event was organised by catering company WhiteOaks. The current record is held by the Yorkshire Building Society, involving 667 people across six UK locations in June 2015.
Making a visible difference
As the four main masonic charities combine to form the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we have published four new infographics to celebrate their work.
They give a quick historical overview of each charity, as well as explaining some of the real differences they have made through their charitable support.
These can be seen on the Charitable Works page of the UGLE site.