The 'Golden Oldies' charity using online singing sessions to combat the lockdown blues

Goldies 'Sing and Smile' sessions have had to go online during the pandemic. Credit: Golden Oldies

A charity that lifts older people's spirits with a singsong and a cuppa has had to go online during the pandemic.

The founder of 'Golden Oldies' says 'You can't be sad if you're singing' but he fears the second lockdown is leading to 'real sadness' in older people who have become isolated. 

'Golden Oldies' was started in 2008 by Grenville Jones with just four singing sessions in Bath and North East Somerset. Now there are sessions across England and Wales, with more than 60 leaders.

The groups bring people together who are socially isolated as well as people with learning difficulties and dementia. Many of the 'Goldies', as they are known, see the group as a lifeline.

  • Watch a feature on the Golden Oldies by The People's Postcode Lottery, which has supported the charity

The groups bring people together who are socially isolated as well as people with learning difficulties and dementia. Many of the 'Goldies', as they are known, see the group as a lifeline.

Grenville Jones noted how singing popular music can combat loneliness and take people back to happy times. The 'Sing and Smile' sessions cover a wealth of material from Vera Lynn to Johnny Cash and, of course, Cliff Richard, who is the charity's patron.

Mike Ball from Stoke Gifford near Bristol joined a local Goldies group five years ago, after his wife died.

"I got introduced to going up there by a friend when my wife passed away. I didn't think that I would enjoy it. But the minute I walked in, the first song that was playing was Pretty Woman and I was hooked.

"I've been ever since. It's the camaraderie. You have a chat for a quarter of an hour before and an hour after until they have to throw us out and we go in the coffee shop."

Mike Ball (on the left) joined the Golden Oldies on a trip to parliament to celebrate the work of the charity in 2016. Credit: ITV West Country

In March 2020, when the pandemic hit, all the sessions were stopped, the coffee shops closed and - what had become a lifeline for many - was suddenly taken away. 

The charity's founder, Grenville Jones, says the lockdown was a huge shock.

"I mean everyone was devastated and we're just a small charity. But we started then to use the internet to bring the sessions into people's homes."

We've invented the term sofa singing. If you can't get people to go out of your homes to come to you, you have to go to them in their homes on their screens.

Grenville Jones, Founder, Golden Oldies
Mike Ball sings along to a Goldies online session from his home in Stoke Gifford. Credit: ITV West Country

Mike Ball joins in the sessions with his laptop.

He says, "We get it twice a week now, Tuesday and Thursday. That's been very good. Something to keep you going, something to look forward to."

Mike says the online sessions are keeping him going as he counts the days until things return to normal and he'll sing with his friends once more.

Goldies founder Grenville Jones says it is hard to be sad when you're singing. Credit: ITV West Country

Grenville Jones is hoping the online sessions will be enough to prevent loneliness. 

I think people are sad. I think isolation and loneliness equals one thing and that's sadness. But you can't be sad if you're singing

Grenville Jones, Golden Oldies

Grenville says, "If you're singing along to your favourite songs, at least for that moment in time you might forget that sadness and you might smile. And, if we can bring songs and smiles to people, the Golden Oldies is more than doing its bit, I think."

Find out more about the Golden Oldies here.