Monty Meth, president of Enfield Over 50s Forum, speaks to James Cracknell about the group’s work helping elderly local people
When I meet Monty Meth, the tireless 92-year-old president of Enfield Over 50s Forum, he is in a triumphant mood.
The news had just come in that one of the forum’s long-running campaigns had taken a big step forward. Enfield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the body responsible for delivering NHS primary care services in the borough, had agreed to support the forum’s annual winter fair event early next year, helping to get the message out about keeping warm and well in the cold weather.
“It is great that they want to work with us,” Monty says. “There is no doubt that the number of elderly people dying during winter is far worse than the rest of the year. We want to help whatever way we can on fuel poverty, and on getting homes insulated and draught proof.”
Twenty years ago, when Monty first joined Enfield Over 50s Forum, the group had 70 members. It now has more than 6,000.
“When I retired in 1999 I joined the forum – it was then called the Enfield Older People’s Forum – and I went to a couple of meetings, but all they were discussing was the state pension. It is limited what a local group can do about something like that and I didn’t think the group had much of a future. Then, after two meetings, they made me the chairman.”
The forum is now thriving and claims to be the largest voluntary sector organisation in Enfield – and one of the largest of its kind in London. More than 3,500 people have sought help from its drop-in advice sessions since 2011, held every Monday morning at Dugdale Centre. There are regular social events hosted at Millfield House in Edmonton, an over-50s film club at Enfield Cineworld, and forum meetings with guest speakers including police officers, professors, council officials and beekeepers, among others.
The forum also produces a 16-page newsletter six times a year, packed full of useful information and articles – including a regular column written by Monty. Campaign wins include persuading the former Enfield Primary Care Trust to introduce digital hearing aids and persuading Transport for London to extend the 347 bus to Barnet Hospital.
What has been the secret to the forum’s success? “What we have been doing for the last 20 years is raising the quality of life for older people, in whatever way we can. We host a series of events during the year on things like helping to prevent people from falling – and Enfield does now have fewer people suffering from falls and going to hospital than anywhere else in London.
“We have a brilliant development manager, Jan Oliver, who is full of passion and ideas and creativity; she is the inspiration for a lot of the work that we do.”
Another long-running campaign has been tackling loneliness among older people, an issue for which the government now has a dedicated minister.
“We were the first organisation in the country to offer support to the Campaign to End Loneliness,” says Monty. “Their director Laura Ferguson came to us and said how great it was to have a local forum like ours. Not all people who live on their own are lonely, but some are, and we have tried to offer them the hand of friendship by offering them free membership of the forum.
“We are also organising an event on Christmas Day itself, at the Quaker Meeting House in Winchmore Hill, to offer people company if they need it.”
Monty is a former journalist, having once been industrial editor at the Daily Mail, and has used his journalistic skills to help promote Enfield Over 50s Forum. For many years he had a regular column in the now defunct Enfield Gazette and Advertiser.
“It was the local media that helped us back when I first joined, when local newspapers were still thriving. I used the media to establish the credentials of the forum. Now we have a big influence locally and good contacts among MPs, the council, and NHS.”
Monty grew up in Bethnal Green in the 1920s and 30s, serving with the Royal Navy during the Second World War and later moving to Enfield in the 1960s as he established his career in journalism. Today the nonagenarian lives in Oakwood with Betty, his wife of 62 years. They have four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Monty was presented with a lifetime achievement award at this year’s Enfield Together Awards, hosted by Enfield Voluntary Action. “I was very appreciative of that,” he says. “I have always wanted to be involved in community work and to put something back.”