New boss of Hampshire Age Concern picks Havant to show value of services

IT'S GOOD TO TALK From left, Mavis Smith, 81, Rick Smith and Joyce Prior, 83, at The Beacon, Meridian Centre, Havant. Picture: Allan Hutchings (122616-010)
IT'S GOOD TO TALK From left, Mavis Smith, 81, Rick Smith and Joyce Prior, 83, at The Beacon, Meridian Centre, Havant. Picture: Allan Hutchings (122616-010)
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THE new man in charge of Hampshire Age Concern enjoyed a visit to Havant as part of his first official public engagement.

Rick Smith, 38, is the new director of the charity, taking over from the long-standing Chris Perry.

Just a week into the job, Mr Smith chose Havant to visit and enjoyed a laugh with pensioners Mavis Smith and Joyce Prior.

He met with about 70 pensioners who gathered at The Beacon in the Meridian Centre for a monthly meeting.

The meeting includes information stalls, a Wii Fit console, and the chance for people to sit down, have a natter and a cup of tea.

The session, which is supported by Havant Borough Council, is cherished by Mrs Smith, 81, and Mrs Prior, 83.

Mrs Smith, of Bartons Road, West Leigh, said: ‘I enjoy meeting people and we have a laugh and a joke.

‘I was widowed nearly five years ago and you either sit at home and be miserable or you make a new life for yourself.’

Mrs Prior, of Manor Way, Southbourne, said: ‘I enjoy everything about it. The staff are lovely and nothing is too much trouble. Coming here keeps you young.’

Mr Smith spoke of the importance of these sessions, as well as Havant’s Age Concern Information and Resource Centre.

The free advice centre was saved in April after a grant from the government of £70,000. It came after Hampshire County Council pulled its funding.

Mr Smith said Havant was chosen for his first visit for good reason.

He said: ‘It’s to make a statement not only to the county council but also the borough council that these sort of services are invaluable.

‘It’s full of people, they are having a great time, chatting and conversing, and this is the sort of service we have to carry on providing. So that’s why I chose here.’

He added: ‘I live in a family home with an extended family with my wife’s grandparents.

‘Being there for older people is hugely important. I think people forget we all get older eventually and we need those services around us.’