WPI / Commonside Trust 2020 Student Project & Surveys – Update

Below, Naomi Martin, Director, Commonside Trust, Pollards Hill, LB Merton, is sharing her experience in dealing with the ongoing Coronavirus crisis and introduces a new student research project in partnership with a prestigious university based in Massachusetts USA.

Read on and see how you can provide valuable input into the project by spending a few minutes in completing one or two online surveys set up by the team.

In a way, we did see this coming, but when we finally shut down the New Horizon Centre at the end of Friday 20th March it felt like as a huge shock and we were not sure where the next few weeks would take us.

It certainly is not “business as usual” and at the same time, it is “busy”.  Commonside is running the Wimbledon Foodbank (distanced) Pollards Hill satellite twice a week, making reassurance phone calls to isolated people in their homes, helping with sorting out family budgets, benefits and housing, and delivering hot food to over twenty-five local older people daily.

There are no upsides to this crisis.  However, as I learnt when my teenage daughter died six years ago, there is no point in surviving something so ghastly unless you put the experience to good use.  At Commonside we are trying to do just that and I am very proud of the way the whole team has adapted quickly in such difficult and worrying circumstances.

One of the early signs that 2020 was going to be truly troubled was hearing that our regular annual visit from some of the most hard-working undergraduates I have ever met from the prestigious WPI University in Massachusetts USA would not now be taking place.  The four students were crestfallen – spending eight weeks doing action research in the UK’s capital is for many of them the chance of a lifetime.  And similarly, I was disappointed as we had lined up such a crucial piece of work for them.

We wanted to take a good hard look at the services that we offer for older people, check that they were as good as they could be, AND (deep breath) look to the future to see what services a new generation of “boomers” would be looking for.  They could quite possibly have very different expectations…

After some frantic skyping, zooming and email exchanges, we have managed to get this project on keel.  And it is oh so timely when almost everyone in the country is right now asking themselves “what about older people?”, “are they safe in those homes?”, “is this the best we can do for them?” and “where do I want to be living when I’m 70-80-90?”.

Right now, some of us are incredibly busy and others are crawling up the walls in boredom.  But I think we can all agree that spending five to ten minutes thinking about services for older people as a priority, thinking about our part in making them better and planning for our own futures could not be more worthwhile right now.  Please scroll down, meet our WPI team of 2020, who are facing so many challenges to get their degree requirements completed and click through to one or both of the surveys.  The first survey is for people and organisations who are working with and provide services to older people.  The second survey is for people thinking abut their own futures as semi/-retirees.

With thanks.



WPI Project Introduction & Surveys 1 and 2

Dear Friends in Merton,

We are a group of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) working with Naomi Martin at the Commonside Community Development Trust.

We were originally supposed to be travelling to London this semester tocomplete this research in-person, but given the COVID-19 circumstances we are now working diligently to do so remotely from the US.

Our goal is to identify what support, services, and activities Commonside and other Merton partners could provide to best meet the needs and expectations of the older generation.

We have developed the first survey specifically for local community organizations similar to Commonside, in hopes of gaining a better understanding of how you may be planning on addressing the needs/expectations of the generation of older people. We would greatly appreciate your input on this topic, and although this is a hectic time due to COVID-19, we hope you may have a few minutes to spare.

Survey 1: http://wpi.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eJ4f1rl3NhQUfqZ

Additionally, we have developed another survey specifically designed for ‘baby boomers’.  If you fall into this group or know someone who does, and have a few minutes to spare we’d be grateful if you could complete the following survey.

Survey 2: http://wpi.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bgxxaGGbiQgo3l3

Thank you very much for your time. We wish you the best and hope you are staying healthy and safe!

The WPI Student Team


Project Update

A big thank you to all who have completed one or both of the above surveys as part of the ‘Re-Imagining the Commonside Lunch Club’ project.  The surveys were an important piece in the wider research carried out by the WPI student team in collaboration with Commonside Community Development Trust.

The team have done a tremendous job, especially under the difficult circumstances and the added challenges of working remotely from their US homes on what was a very local, community focused project!

We have attached below their final report which we hope is of interest to those of you who have provided input, engaged in the ongoing discussion, and anyone who would like to learn more about this important project, whether they are providing services to the target age group discussed, or are indeed themselves part of this group and have an interest in how services could be improved going forward.

WPI Commonside Trust Final Report 
WPI Presentation

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