The occasion provided the opportunity to thank all their supporters, funders and volunteers. The Lord-Lieutenant of West Lothian, Mrs Moira Niven, performed the opening ceremony at George Street, Bathgate, and has been made an honorary member of the Network.
The Network’s convener, Anne Webster, welcomed the guests and spoke about the journey the Network had undertaken to reach this point.
“After two difficult years living with Covid, and a shaky start to 2022, we opened the doors of our smart new premises on January 19 and began to welcome some of our “early adopter” special interest and activity groups into this purpose-designed meeting space,” she said.
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“Come February, it was standing room only at our very first monthly full members’ meeting in this bright new space, with Network members keen to check out the new facility, as well as meet up once again with their friends.
“Our move into larger premises on Bathgate’s main shopping precinct couldn’t have come at a better time. The pandemic has brought home to us all how important it is to be connected with others. Older people have found it to be particularly challenging and so we were delighted to be able to secure new, larger premises in a high street location, giving us a highly visible base from which to launch our growth plans for 2022 and beyond.”
Following a consultation with activity group leaders last September when the Network took on the property, work has been put in to refresh the tired interior of this former bank and to shape the space to the Network’s needs.
The 50+ Network’s core mission is to provide a wide range of opportunities for social interaction to combat loneliness in older people. Anne Webster explained that it was important for them to have their own base where the Network could be taken to the next level.
“Anecdotally, we know that for many people the Network and the opportunities for social interaction are life changing. We have ambitious medium-term growth plans because we want to pass those benefits on to as many people as possible.”
She added: “But it’s not enough simply to grow our membership – the development of new interest groups, not just in Bathgate, but across the county is important, and I would like to acknowledge the input of all our volunteer group leaders. Thank you to all those who generously give their time to develop and lead groups; it is fundamental to what the Network offers its members and is very much appreciated.”
“Partnership working is also essential to help achieve our goals, and it is important to acknowledge the support of the many organisations and individuals that work with us.”
Towards the end of 2021 the Network’s membership began to soar, exceeding 500 for the first time since the group began, some 27 years ago. Since then, almost another 100 members have joined the Network.
Anne concluded: “We are constantly blown away by the huge level of support we receive, both financial and in-kind, which makes possible all that we offer our members, and never more so than over the last couple of years. So, whilst we have been open to our members since the start of the year, we felt it was important to mark the opening with an event which acknowledges the support of everyone who has helped to make this possible.”