Duchess opens cafe to combat loneliness of elderly with offer of speed dating
The Duchess of Northumberland is offering tattoos and speed dating for the elderly after opening a cafe to help combat loneliness.
Situated at The Alnwick Garden, which the Duchess redeveloped and opened 15 years ago, the centre will offer a range of activities from toe nail clipping to getting a flu jab.
Called the Stuart Halbert Elderberries Drop In Centre, the cafe will be run by volunteers and will be open to anyone over 55.
The Duchess said: "We all see on television cases of elderly people being mistreated and I just think that's really, really unacceptable and we're the perfect place to offer the chance for people to come if they want to get out of their house or flat.
"They can come and sit and talk, hopefully have a flu jab, it's where they can come and have their toe nails cut. It's where they'll always find a friend, someone will always be cooking and baking and it's run by volunteers.
"I like doing things differently, I know there are old people who would like to have tattoos so I want to do temporary ones.
"I'd also like to do speed dating nights here, getting elderly men and women together to do what they want to do."
She said that in Northumberland there is a high percentage of old people who are often left without family close by due to them moving away for work.
"I like thinking outside the box, so the jigsaws and the dominoes are great if that's what they want, but equally some of them will want hair braiding and beads and all sorts of quirky things," she said.
Marking 15 years since the garden opened, the Duchess said the benefits to the North East had been huge, despite criticism of what she was doing at the beginning.
She said: "In the early days when I was building Alnwick Garden people didn't really understand what we were doing and there was huge criticism about the project because I had received public funding.
"But what is extraordinary is we know from our own economic impact study after 15 years in business the garden has generated £236 million of extra spend in our region, which is an incredible figure."