Cheers! Cocktail parties in care homes

Cocktails in Care Homes
United Kingdom (London)

Crack open the sherry, gin and Pimms, because Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ is on the sound system; Hetty has donned her lippy and feather boa; Babs has the karaoke mic, and a barrel of laughs is about to be had.

No, this isn’t your local boozer, it’s Cocktails in Care Homes – and it’s absolutely fabulous.

Evenings in care homes can be quiet and lonely. That’s why, in 2010, the UK’s leading intergenerational arts organisation Magic Me decided to change that – by hosting weekly cocktail parties to provide an occasion for volunteers, care staff and residents to socialise together in care homes in London.

“What I love about the parties is they make me feel that people think about you.” – Hetty, Care home resident

Director Susan Langford MBE founded Magic Me in 1989, to bring together unlikely intergenerational partners, as the opportunity to chat with young people offers a respite from the loneliness that plagues many. Projects are led by a team of freelance creative artists, such as musicians, dancers, photographers, printmakers, writers and drama specialists, who design activities to stimulate conversation and an exchange of ideas.

Susan was inspired to start this spirited project in response to care home residents opening up that they found evenings to be the loneliest part of the day, with fewer visitors and activities: “Due to ill health, frailty and diminished energy, care home residents can’t pop down the pub or out to socialise with friends. Those whose families live far away might not have any visitors or even see anyone from outside the home for weeks at a time. We set up to change this.”

Piloted in three homes in Tower Hamlets, the aim was to add some sparkle and glamour to the midweek hump. Each bash has a theme – such as Superheroes, Hollywood Glamour, Roaring Twenties and Winter Wonderland – and anyone, regardless of age, can attend, play board games and help with make-up, costumes and decorations.

It’s not just residents that get affected; care homes can be stressful places to visit for family members too – especially if a relative has dementia. Whether Vera Lynn, reggae or heavy metal, music and ‘memory boxes’ can help spark memories. Parties provide a relaxing and fun way to spend time together, with lasting benefits. Because there ain’t no party like a care home party.

Listen to The Cocktails in Care Homes podcast here.

Cocktails for Care Homes is currently running in 16 care homes and extra care schemes in nine London boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Islington, Camden, Southwark, Hammersmith and Fulham, Waltham Forest, Westminster, Brent and Lambeth. Each party needs a team of around ten volunteers to socialise, serve drinks and chat with residents. Volunteers simply choose the party dates and locations that suit them. As demand grows, Magic Me hopes to increase reach across London and beyond.

And on the day after the cocktail party the night before? Regrets, there might be a few, but then again, too few to mention. As Frank Sinatra asserts: “But more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

Note: a red dot on name tags makes sure no one gets too tipsy on medication.

AtlasAction: Magic Me is always looking for new party volunteers, partnerships and supporters. Raise the roof at any of the monthly upcoming knees-ups, and help design party themes, décor, music and entertainment over a tipple or three.

>>> If you’re inspired by this, check out South Korea’s discos for the over-65s: raving their way to wellbeing.

Written by

Lisa Goldapple, Editor, Atlas of the Future (22 October 2019)

Project leader

Susan Langford, Director, Magic Me and Phoebe Grudzinskas, Project Manager, Cocktails in Care Homes


This project has been selected as part of AgeFutures, a new storytelling project that maps the innovations transforming the lives of older people, and the designers, entrepreneurs and community leaders – across all generations – behind them. Atlas of the Future is excited to partner with Independent Age.

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