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A Blackburn project plays a part in couple’s love story

A Blackburn project for those suffering with mental health and loneliness has been successful in bringing a couple together.

Denise Smith, 66, and Russell Whittle, 60, are now engaged after meeting at Turning Pages, a project funded by Newground Together and run by Sliding Doors. Denise had been referred to Turning Pages two years ago due to suffering with severe anxiety and depression, she also felt isolated after the death of her husband. Russell had been referred to the same project three years ago after suffering a major stroke.

Russell said: “The first day Denise came [to the centre] she came and sat next to me and after a few sessions I realised there was a connection.”

Turning Pages is a local community project that aims to battle loneliness and create a community that is ‘Open for All’. The organisation has recently introduced ‘Dementia Friends’ sessions to create a safe space for those with dementia and those suffering with loneliness to come together and spark conversations and memories.

At the group the couple enjoy a wide range of activities such as karaoke, singing, dancing and bingo. It is a great way to prevent people from feeling isolated and lonely. The music is also great for those living with dementia as it uses old photographs and music to help spark memories and conversations.

Mandy, a volunteer at the project, said: “I love how music brings back memories and puts smiles on people’s faces.”

Denise, Russell and some others that attend Turning Pages went away to Scarborough for the weekend and Russell got down on one knee and proposed to Denise. Russell and Denise now share a double flat in supported accommodation.

Denise said: “I felt isolated before, but I have a very nice life now.”

Russell said: “If you are stuck in all day and isolated, especially in the winter, you feel worse. You just

want to sleep all day. We have fun times with Sliding Doors. It gives us somewhere to go and we’ve made lots of new friends”

Julie Astley, Sliding Door’s Project manager, said: “The project has been extremely well attended, exceeding our expectations and the range of people has been so wide, all together to have fun. Our youngest member is 22 and the oldest in their 80’s they gain so much from each other. We see and hear from family members the positive change in people from when they first arrive to when they leave. 61 people have reported to us that they feel less isolated as a result of the project supported by Newground Together.”


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