Reimagining the Lunch Club at Commonside

Reimagining the Lunch Club-Commonside

Sponsor: Commonside Community Development Trust
Sponsor Liaison: Naomi Martin
Student Team: Caitlin Boermeester, Rebecca Debski, Kyle Joyce, Ioannis Maillis                 
Abstract: Individuals born between 1946 and 1964 (known as baby boomers) are expected to be far more active and engaged in retirement than prior generations of seniors. Social service organizations must adapt to meet boomers’ demands and expectations. In collaboration with the Commonside Community Development Trust in Merton, England, the goal of our project was to identify what services, support, and activities Commonside could provide to better meet the needs of aging baby boomers. Through comprehensive background research, interviews, surveys, and focus groups, we developed a list of recommended activities that Commonside could implement within their “Lunch Club for Over 55s” program. This list included walking groups, day trips, health services, brain exercises, and more.

Executive Summary

The Commonside Community Development Trust is a non-profit social welfare
organization dedicated to providing services for the elderly and families of their community.
Commonside is located in the borough of Merton in London and operates the New Horizon
Center. They offer services for many different age groups, but one of their most prominent
programs is the “Lunch Club for Over 55s” which provides elderly members of the community
an opportunity for social engagement as well as a hot midday meal. This club runs from 11:00
am to 2:00 pm every weekday and there are approximately 80 people registered.
Project Goals and Objectives
Our project with Commonside centered around the notion that “baby boomers” (i.e.,
those born between 1946 and 1964) are predicted to have far different expectations regarding
retirement than individuals in previous generations. In total, there are just over 1.5 billion “baby
boomers” in the world – 14.8 million of whom reside in the UK (Fry, 2018). As baby boomers
near retirement, they are expected to be the most engaged group of older adults with a multitude
of varying passions, life experiences, interests, and values. While the generation before them is
known to prefer more sedentary activities, baby boomers will likely be seeking to maintain their
active lifestyles, further their education, and travel. Government agencies, churches, community
groups, and other service organizations, such as Commonside, are only just beginning to
recognize these demographic changes and plan for their implications. Therefore, Commonside
asked our team to explore how the services and activities of their Lunch Club program could be
reimagined to meet the needs of the post-war generation who are nearing retirement age.
The overall goal of our project was to identify what services, support, and activities the
Commonside Trust could provide to better meet the needs of older people in the future. We
achieved this goal through the completion of three main objectives:
1. Analyze demographic trends for the Borough of Merton and Commonside relating to
service provision for the elderly.
2. Assess the current and best practices that organizations similar to Commonside are taking
in regard to services and activities to accommodate the boomer generation.

3. Identify stakeholder opinions about services, support, and activities that Commonside
might provide for older adults in the future.
To execute these objectives, we conducted surveys, interviews, and focus groups with
staff members from organizations similar to Commonside as well as with the key stakeholders in
this project. These stakeholders included the Commonside staff and board, the current members
of the Lunch Club, Merton Councilors, and most importantly, baby boomers themselves. Given
that the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances did not allow us to travel to London as planned, our
methodology was adapted to be executed remotely; thus, we relied more heavily on online
surveys and Zoom video calls to collect data.
Findings and Recommendations
We found a strong agreement among stakeholders that specific planning and
improvement is needed in order to meet the needs of the aging baby boomers. We compared the
services and activities that local organizations currently offer with those that baby boomers
indicated they will want in retirement. A clear gap emerged – the baby boomer generation wants
more active and exciting activities, many of which activities local organizations do not currently
Additionally, from our research on the current and best practices in elderly social
services, we learned that many organizations are taking the first steps to accommodating
boomers, and are beginning to recognize that they will have different needs and expectations.
The activities and programs that many of these organizations offer have a strong focus on health,
socialization, remaining active, and furthering an individual’s education.
On the other hand, we analyzed why those in the baby boomer generation (who have
recently retired) do not take advantage of services or programs offered by local organizations. Of
the survey participants who indicated they were retired, nearly half had not participated in any
offerings from a community organization due to a lack of time, lack of interest, and being
unaware of opportunities. We conclude that effective outreach and marketing will be key
components for success in the future. The baby boomer generation is very independent, and will
not likely seek out social programs, so community organizations such as Commonside should not
only prepare to offer new types of activities and services that will appeal to this active
population, but also market these services more effectively and aggressively.

Taking the above conclusions into consideration, we developed a list of recommended
activities that Commonside could implement within their “Lunch Club for Over 55s” program.
The list included, but is not limited to, the activities and programs shown in Table E.S.-1 below.
Alongside each activity/program is the reason why we believe it will be suitable to the baby
boomers (third column), as well as a brief analysis of the feasibility of implementing the
program/activity (fourth column). The feasibility column shows how each activity ranks on a 3-
point scale: easy, moderate, or difficult to implement, based on feedback from all of the
stakeholders and other organizations. Finally, additional notes regarding logistics are
documented in the last column.

Table E.S.-1: Final Recommendations for Lunch Club Programs/Activities

Activity/Program Reasons Feasibility Additional Notes
1 Walking Groups Active, Social Easy Can offer the walking group as a substitute for the after-lunch activity multiple times a week

Day Trips

(markets, museums, stately homes, gardens)

Active, Social, Travel Moderate Need volunteers (1 for every 3 lunch clubbers), as well as transportation
3 Brain Exercises Education, Skill Enhancement Easy Needs planning and continuous modifications in order to maintain engagement
4 Blood Pressure Checks Health Moderate Potentially needs approval from a health professional and testing equipment
5 Yoga Active, Social Easy Members can watch a video session on a large screen to guide them, or a staff member can run the session