The Lifestyle Centre in Chorley is a special place. "People take ownership of it: it's ours and there are people who've been coming for years," said Angela Moss, Centre Coordinator. "A woman came in the other day asking about our mural, so we went around to see it and she told me she'd painted it 15 years before. It was still so bright. It was lovely to see she had left her mark."
The first port of call for services, information, and assistance for older people looking for support regarding issues from benefits and care to housing and health as well as a welcoming place for people to come and enjoy the company of others, The Lifestyle Centre truly is a unique social hub.
Run by Age UK Lancashire in conjunction with Brothers of Charity, the centre hosts a wide range of activities such as computer classes, craft sessions, gardening, chair-based exercise, and knit-and-natter as well as events on malnutrition awareness and winter well-being. Their garden has been designed for people with dementia, and they recently transformed their cafe into a vintage cafe with a new menu geared towards ensuring that elderly people eating there who may not otherwise get much to eat are getting all the requisite nutrition.
"It's a hub for older people," said Age UK Lancashire Project Manager Claire Yates. "We look at things holistically - people come in asking about one thing but we can signpost other services and other ways we can help, and the difference with the Lifestyle Centre is that it offers a relaxed setting where people can make friends.
"It's all about putting tools in people's tool boxes so they can make some choices and we can offer that more rounded service," added Claire, who is from Manchester and who has worked for Age UK Lancashire for a year. "People come in and make connections; our focus is engagement for older people. It's a family."
Having worked at the centre for nine years, Angela concurs. "You really get to know everyone; we're a family here," she said. "Everybody comes and sits together and we try to make sure nobody's on their own unless they want to have a quiet cuppa: a lot of people come because they want company but they can be too shy to instigate it.
"You get a sense when something's wrong, when something's bothering someone, and this time of year can be very difficult for people," added Angela, who is from Chorley. "There are a lot of vulnerable and isolated people, so the centre provides somewhere where they can feel comfortable and feel a part of something.
"It's a massive lifeline for people; they know they'll be accepted and that's a nice atmosphere to walk into. Everybody's welcome."
With the centre receiving around 20 to 30 visitors a day, a number of volunteers are on hand to point people in the right direction, with the centre always on the look-out for more people keen to get involved on the volunteering side. Retiree Veronica Williams is one such volunteer.
"I'd always volunteered somewhere, so when I got talking to them I thought 'what better thing to give your time back to?'" said Veronica, who is from Chorley and used to work in the ticket office at Chorley Railway Station. "I really enjoy it - voluntary work is enjoyable because you get a lot out of it yourself."
And it's that sense of benevolence which really shines through at The Lifestyle Centre.
"I've worked in charities for about 20 years and I love the difference you can make," said Claire. "We try and do things to enhance and enrich people's lives and empower them to make better choices. You definitely see a difference in people and we get people coming back saying it's something they really look forward to each week. It's really fulfilling."