Talking Café connecting patients at St Martins

A cuppa, cookie and a natter doesn’t sound like your normal prescription, but it’s proving a winning combination for patients of St Martins Medical Practice who are attending a newly established ‘Talking Café’. 

The café is run by the practice’s Te Tumu Waiora Health Coach, Rachel Kirkbride, to address the negative health outcomes caused by social isolation and loneliness. 

Ron Gardiner, a patient at the practice, decided to go along for a look and has now been attending for several weeks. Ron enjoys the companionship and appreciates everybody sharing their interests with the group. 

“We get a bit from everyone and learn from each other. We have a lot of laughs and I’ve made some good friends,” says Ron. 

Pam Derrett lives two minutes from the practice, so enjoys walking to the Talking Café rather than taking the car. 

“Rachel suggested the café was a good place to meet new people, especially after the isolation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Pam.

“You meet nice people and learn about areas of interest to keep fit. I tell people about the café, and they think it’s a wonderful idea, so more people should be doing it.”

General Practitioner for the practice Dr Lizzie Loudon had read about a similar initiative in the United Kingdom and decided to set up a local version. As well as Rachel, Tasha Wilson from the practice’s administration team runs the Talking Café.

“We had a vision of starting the Talking Café three years ago and thanks to Te Tumu Waiora it has become possible. I go to the café as much as possible and it’s fabulous to see the patients smiling and their confidence increasing. I also find it reduces the time this group of patients spend at the practice, because I can informally connect with them at the café,” says Lizzie. 

“Each week there is a talk on an aspect of wellbeing. Sometimes Rachel does this, at other times members of the group will share something. There are often guest speakers, such as our Health Improvement Practitioner, Physio and Occupational Therapist and topics have included Tai Chi, Laughing Yoga, Mindfulness, breathing exercises, nutrition, exercise and gratitude.” 

“At present most patients attending the café are retired. The next step is to engage younger people. We would love to build a space for generations to mix, which would benefit all.”

Rachel says the aim of the Talking Café is to build people’s confidence so they can move on to join other established groups.  She believes it is a simple concept that can be replicated in any environment. 

“We’ve also done a diabetes and ‘Ageing Well’ group and I’m looking at doing a group for young mums who may be socially isolated,” says Rachel. 

View a video about the Talking Café here. For more about Te Tumu Waiora in Canterbury go to tetumuwaioracanterbury.co.nz

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