As a volunteer and psychologist, I saw how much of a difference it can and did make through a wonderful charity-funded experience for older people called The Posh Club.
On an afternoon each week, at a low cost of £5, guests are provided with a cabaret space laid up with tables at which they are served high tea: sandwiches, cakes, buns, slices and fruit, all washed down with tea and coffee. They are also treated to a series of cabaret acts hosted by a glamorous MC and music for dancing, with a glass of bubbly to help things on their way.
But this is no ordinary tea party, this is The Posh Club. And there is something in this additional element of being invited to make an effort which somehow transforms this tea party into something which has a life of its own. Guests are invited to dress up, to look their best, to get up and dance and to sing their hearts out. They are invited to sit with new people if they wish and to make new friends.
People really do make the effort here – whether it’s a full blown party outfit or even just wearing a sparkly brooch they haven’t worn for a while. Talking to guests, some of whom go to lots of other meetings and events, I hear them say that this is the highlight of their week; a fixture in their diary; they feel sad (or even cross) if they have to miss it because of other commitments.
I see an excitement and happiness in guests as they leave, which I believe they take away to other parts of their lives. Of course there may be many reasons for this. Listening to music and dancing, for example, have long been associated with wellbeing. But I am convinced that having a reason to ‘make the effort’ plays a key part.