If Not Now, When – on now


A series of photographs of some the most elderly people in our community by Michael Whelan:

Award-winning photographer Michael Whelan is set to capture older residents from around the UK to form a major photography project to commemorate 50 years of Contact the Elderly.

Whelan was inspired to work with UK charity Contact the Elderly after seeing the work they do in local communities all over the UK to help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation in older residents. After hearing an interview with Contact the Elderly founder and chairman Trevor Lyttleton on the importance of reducing social isolation among older people, Whelan decided to capture some of the older guests who enjoy Sunday tea parties with Contact the Elderly for his project.

In order to achieve a cohesive picture of a range of older people, Whelan travelled all over the UK during an 18 month period to visit tea parties arranged by groups of dedicated volunteers for Contact the Elderly.

Founded in 1965, Contact the Elderly is a national charity with aims to tackle acute levels of loneliness and social isolation among the older people. Through a network of volunteers, older guests are invited for Sunday tea once a month at a volunteer’s home and are transported there by volunteer drivers. This simple concept fulfils the charity’s aim to relieve feelings of loneliness and help older guests make friends and enjoy an afternoon of companionship. As of 2015, Contact the Elderly has over 570 groups nationwide supported by a network of over 7,500 volunteers.

Whelan is a seasoned photographer and has been the recipient of many awards recognising his talent. He has also exhibited his work all over the world and worked with brands such as Adidas, Paul Smith and Universal. He wanted to use his experience to raise awareness of the work of Contact the Elderly.

“When I discovered the work that Contact the Elderly was doing to combat loneliness amongst older people, I wanted to use my expertise to help promote it. Through meeting guests from the [area] group I’ve heard some incredible stories and seen what a real difference these tea parties make. It’s been a privilege being able to photograph such characters and I can’t wait to open up the exhibition to the public so they can see Contact the Elderly’s vital work for themselves”.

The project fits in perfectly with a wider range of special events to commemorate Contact the Elderly’s Jubilee anniversary.  Entitled ‘If not now, when?’ the project will be presented through a touring exhibition, a book and a newspaper which will be distributed throughout local communities.

This is also a unique opportunity for older guests to be part of a project which will be a visual representation of the work Contact the Elderly does. Not only will the photographs put a face to the groups of older guests Contact the Elderly aims to help, but will also tell the story of why the charity’s work continues to be so important.

Furthermore, the project aims to help raise awareness for the charity and inspire people to support Contact the Elderly in the continuing work in local communities all over the UK. As the project moves around the country, it will bring to light the issues of loneliness and isolation to audiences in a new way and will hopefully inspire people to get involved and support Contact the Elderly.