Local Donations Pay for 'Life-changing' Minibus for Age UK

Lillian Urban became face of campaign to raise funds for new vehicle

Lillian Urban (left) and friend Doris at AgeUK centre's garden. Picture: AgeUK
Lillian Urban (left) and friend Doris at AgeUK centre's garden. Picture: AgeUK

An elderly widow from the borough has spoken of how a new minibus paid for by locals’ donations has changed her life.

Last year, Lillian Urban, 88, became the endearing face of Age UK’s campaign to raise £64,000 for a new bus that has given her and other elderly residents the freedom to escape their homes.

The short trips, only to Tesco, became their “lifeline” from the loneliness – particularly during the pandemic – of being stuck indoors without any exercise or visitors beside their carers.

They hit the ambitious fundraising target in late 2020, after their story was covered in a news item on this site by the Local Democracy Reporting Service and then picked up by ITV London News.

On Thursday (16 June), Lillian and her pal, Doris, were taken for a rare day out that was only possible thanks to the new bus and the charity’s volunteers.

They were treated to lunch and dessert at Age UK’s centre in Greyhound Road, Hammersmith, and a chance to socialise in the garden with new people. Whilst it provided only a small change of scenery from her little flat in Fulham Palace Road, Lillian said it was “so important” to her.

“It was a great day out for me because I only ever get out for the shopping or the doctors,” said Lillian, who uses a zimmer frame due to her arthritis.

“Normally I just watch telly all day. I’m housebound unless someone takes me somewhere. Otherwise I feel stranded.

“It was so nice because everybody was talking to us and they made you feel so welcome. It was like a family.”

Such opportunities to socialize don’t come often for Lillian, who was a dinner lady at Melcombe School until she retired.

Her husband has long since died of a heart attack, and Francis, the last of her three children – two of whom died young – succumbed to lung cancer two years ago.

Age UK Hammersmith And Fulham's bus needs replacing. Picture: Age UK

Speaking again about her day out, Lillian said, “We had our dinner looking into the garden that had flowers dotted all around it, and then we sat outside for a while.

“For our dinner we had a salad with bacon and new potatoes. For pudding we had a beautiful chocolate cake… and cream.

“I slept well last night, just from being out and seeing people. You won’t understand it but when you’re sitting in a room every day it really gets to you.”

She continued: “It’s been a long time since I’ve properly gone out and it really gets on your nerves – not being able to have anyone in your flat.

“I can’t read because I have Glaucoma and I often just have the TV on for company even if I’m not watching it.”

But she is nevertheless grateful for the help she gets at Lygon House, the sheltered accommodation she moved to from her old family home in Cathnor Road, Shepherd’s Bush.

“A carer comes three times a day to have a chat. They make me breakfast, dinner and tea. I’ve had the same carer for four years and they’re very good to me.

“It’s my home and I’m happy here.”

Lillian Urban (left) tucks into her lunch at AgeUK's centre in Greyhound Road. Picture: AgeUK
Lillian Urban (left) tucks into her lunch at AgeUK's centre in Greyhound Road. Picture: AgeUK

For information about how to become a befriender for AgeUK in Hammersmith and Fulham, visit their website.

Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

June 18, 2021