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Two older ladies at a table sharing a laugh

Age-friendly case study: Shared Tables – Older people eating out together

Shared Tables, a project developed in the Crossgates area of Leeds, invites older people living alone to enjoy a meal together at a local restaurant.

The project offers an alternative to traditional coffee mornings by providing opportunities to socialise at weekends and in the evenings.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours’ Scheme CIO (CDGNS), a community organisation working with and for older people in the Crossgates area of Leeds, exists to reduce loneliness, support independence and promote health and wellbeing in later life.

CDGNS started developing the Shared Tables project in October 2015, after local older people identified a lack of social opportunities in the evenings and at weekends as a main barrier to social inclusion. While there are often activities available during the working week, evenings and weekends can be particularly lonely.

Shared Tables offers an alternative to more traditional social events such as coffee mornings, providing opportunities to socialise at weekends and in the evenings. The current group of 11 table hosts meets quarterly to choose venues and set dates and times for Shared Tables.

Shared Tables: Older people eating out together

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Over 100 people have now attended at least one Shared Table in Leeds, with one evaluation finding that 63% of respondents reported better wellbeing after being involved in the project. As a result of meeting people at Shared Tables, participants have shared unfacilitated meals or coffee together and gone to the cinema.

Shared Tables participants report how the project offers a different experience from traditional social opportunities laid on for older people, because the times, dates and venues for Shared Tables are decided by older people themselves. Being in a smaller group having a meal at a local restaurant at the weekend creates a different atmosphere from larger drop-in events during office hours. 

It would be an excellent project for anyone to take up. It makes a real difference. To know that you can go and meet a group of fairly like-minded people and have a chat while you’re having a meal is a really nice experience.
Passing on the Shared Tables model

The Shared Tables model has now been successfully taken up by MAE Care. The project worker from CDGNS developed a toolkit and supported MAE Care to set up their own Shared Tables project. MAE Care now organises monthly Shared Tables, and all ten events so far have been well attended. Discussions are underway to pilot the model in another two areas of Leeds.
The element of choice and control by the participants themselves means that Shared Tables can be adapted to meet local needs. For example, CDGNS tends to organise evening Shared Tables in summer, as female members have expressed concerns about getting home safely in the dark.