A LIFELONG choir member has performed solo today for the first time - at 92 years old.

Tom Brown, a member of the Tredegar Orpheus Male Voice choir, performed alongside primary school pupils at a health conference exploring ways of tackling loneliness today.

His performance concluded the all-day event held by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) and charity Ffrind i Mi at the Christchurch Centre in Malpas Road, Newport.

It marked efforts to encourage contact between generations in a bid to tackle the issue across Gwent.

Speaking before his solo, Mr Brown, who also performed alongside pupils from a number of regional schools after several rehearsals as part of intergenerational work by the care home where he is a resident, said: “I can’t decide if I’m ready for it or if I’m nervous.

“The children are fantastic and they are so ready. I love singing and working with them.

“It was a good while ago since I last properly sang, maybe 18 months. But I sing in bed every night.

“I joined the choir when I was 37, but barely sang anything until then and still haven’t performed solo.

“I’m doing this because singing means a lot to me, and so does the involvement of the children.

“The only solo work I’ve done is around the house.

“When I left school in 1941 I went straight to work in a bakery and stayed there until 1945 when I was called into the army.

“The war ended one week later - they must have heard Tom Brown was coming!”

Mr Brown stood with the help of a zimmer frame decorated with paper vines, flowers and music notes.

“The kids did that for me,” he added. “We called it ‘Shimmer Your Zimmer’.”

Mr Brown and the choir of schoolchildren sang' I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing' and Toy Story’s 'You’ve Got a Friend in Me'.

Lyrics were passed out to encourage the audience to join in.

Adam Hesselden, manager of Woffington House Care Home where Mr Brown lives, helped organise the conference.

He described how the use of certain medicines had fallen by 50 per cent at Woffington House, since the introduction of intergenerational activities there where children visit residents.

Mr Brown sang alongside pupils of Georgetown, St Joseph’s and Griffithstown primary schools.


SPEAKERS at the conference stressed that loneliness is an epidemic, yet combating it is low cost work - and the results can be priceless.

Ffrind i Mi (Friend of mine) is a new Aneurin Bevan University Health Board initiative to supported and reconnect those who feel lonely.

Funded by the Welsh Government’s he Health Technology Wales scheme and the 1,000 Lives programme, it aims to twin community groups, care homes and schools to bridge gaps between generations, and reduce prejudice and isolation by forming a Welsh strategy for intergenerational practice.

Newport West AM Jayne Bryant was among those in attendance. She said: “Everyone attending the conference is determined to make a difference to help combat loneliness and social isolation.

“A lot of hard work has gone into preparing the draft intergenerational strategy and it’s brilliant to hear more ideas being discussed here today. There’s no doubt building relationships through initiatives like Ffrind i Mi can transform lives.”

The initiative is people-centred and hopes to show the value of individuals, no matter their age.

Intergenerational bake off, where elderly people show youngsters how to cook, has been a big success, the conference heard.

Panel members representing cadets, police, local authorities, schools and care homes announced plans for a steering group, which will analyse feedback from the conference and put together a report in September.