Ron Aston is the chairman of the Wednesday Club. The Wednesday Club is an English speaking social club open to elderly people of all nationalities. The club meets on the first and third Wednesday of the month. It was created with the aim of combatting the prevalence of loneliness amongst the elderly. The Wednesday Club is one of the Corporate Social Responsibility charities affiliated with the British Chamber.
When and how did you first hear about the Wednesday Club?
I heard about it through a friend. It began with Dr Lydia Jones, an English doctor in Belgium who realised all of her older patients were only seeing her from month to month. The doctor approached a friend, Deborah, a warden of the then Scandinavian church. She enquired about whether her and the doctor could hire a room twice a month. This is how it started.
I was on the board of British Charitable Fund at the time and now I am chairman.
We have about 20 ladies and gentlemen who attend. One of our members is 98 and we have a few who are in their late 80s and early 90s. We have around the same number of volunteers. We do ferry people to the club if the need arises but this is not always necessary.
What got you interested in getting involved with the Wednesday Club?
I took pre-retirement seven years ago and decided I was going to do charity work. I worked with the British Charitable Fund and the Royal British Legion. It was through my connections there that I heard about the Wednesday Club.
How has the Wednesday Club changed since it was founded?
When I first started at the Wednesday Club it had been around for 8 – 9 months. They used to play games like Bridge, Bingo and Scrabble. When you play games you don’t talk to the people around you but rather, concentrate on the game.
Dr Jones wanted people to interact so we don’t play as many games anymore. Instead, we sit down over tea, coffee and sandwiches and simply spend time to talk to each other.
The people who come treat each other as friends rather than people coming along to the club and this is what is important in fighting off loneliness. It’s about building meaningful friendships and building up a supportive community.
What are some reasons that people should get involved and how can they get involved?
If you are a person who is interested in charity work or simply like to meet people, then the Wednesday Club is a good place to get involved in. You can get involved as a member or volunteer by going to our website http://www.the-wednesday-club.org/.
How has the Wednesday Club changed the lives of those who attend in Brussels and what impact has it made?
The people who come get a lot out of it. A person reached out to one of our staff saying that he received a phone call 6 – 8 months ago. It was about their Dad who was in Brussels and he retired and became lonely. When we asked if he was in need of financial support, the son confirmed that his Dad was just lonely and needed support. Now the father comes to the Wednesday Club every time, he has gained companionship and is no longer stuck at home by himself. Loneliness breeds loneliness. This is why the Wednesday Club is important to elderly people as it provides a place to meet people and form connections.
Why is it important for people who are outside of the Wednesday Club to know about it?
There might be people out there who are lonely and this would give them an outlet. You don’t have to be British to join. We have Belgians, Germans and Brits and we are open to people of all nationalities. If they find out about it, it would help defeat loneliness. It’s also important because depression has risen but the topic of depression is less stigmatised than before. Loneliness can contribute to feelings of depression and this is something that we work towards preventing.