Member Lindsey Betteridge provides us with a wonderfully joyful round-up of her year at The Joy Club…
Christmas Day 2021. My family had decided the adults wouldn’t swap gifts, so I was really surprised when I received a gift voucher from my daughter for an annual membership to The Joy Club. She said she couldn’t not get her mum a gift at Christmas (bless) and said that, once she’d seen the advertising posts on social media, she couldn’t resist as she knew I’d always wanted to try Tai Chi.
She knew I’d never have the confidence to go to a local Tai Chi class and quickly worked out that the cost of one class per week being covered by the annual membership was a complete bargain! Together we spent an hour or so trawling through the 30-odd monthly events available. I signed up for my first free month (making it even more of a bargain) and thought to myself, “you know what, this looks good, this looks very good!”
Just after Christmas, I joined one of the regular welcome sessions with Chloe and enjoyed hearing about how and why Hannah Thomson had set up the company and from that point on I was hooked. Little did I know then how much The Joy Club would change my life in so many ways. As I approach my membership anniversary, it’s given me the chance to reflect on exactly what The Joy Club has done for me…
I left my full-time, fairly intense desk job in summer 2020, deep in the mire of Covid and decided to take some downtime. Being locked down, I spent time sorting out my pension and busied myself doing a couple of online courses to gain some extra qualifications for my CV, in the event I decided or needed to get back into the workplace in the future.
I hadn’t been active for far too long and lockdown only made that worse, so when The Joy Club came into my life I took the proverbial bull by the horns, booked onto Jerry’s weekly Qigong and Tai Chi class, actually quite enjoyed it and then decided to go all out and book Jill’s weekly Cardio class as well. Whilst I found my first few Tai Chi lessons very pleasant, although there were lots of moves to learn, the cardio class didn’t come so easily. I really struggled for the first two or three sessions, I was constantly watching the clock counting down how much longer until it was finished and I couldn’t keep up with any of what Jill was doing.
She was so understanding and reassuring, reinforcing that I only had to do what I could – nothing more – gave me praise where deserved and, just last week, Jill reminded me of how far I’ve come since those early sessions; now I can pretty much keep up, I no longer clock watch and instead of feeling a slight dread when logging in, I now feel excited and confident. I’ve lost almost a stone in weight this year, I can comfortably walk way further than before, I have strength in my arms that I never had before (I can feel the difference when lifting things) and although I’m not quite there yet and still struggle a little keeping my arms above my head, I can nevertheless maintain this for much longer than when I started.
I feel so much better in myself, friends are noticing how much more flexible I am and a recent highlight was at a Christmas dinner and dance when, after an hour and a half of non stop dancing, my friend exclaimed “How are you still going?!”
I now do most of the exercise classes on offer, sometimes five or six different sessions a week, and although I’m a very long way from being expert at them I love them all and this is due to fantastic instructors, being made to feel welcome by all the other members, not being pushed to do anything I’m not capable of, being given easier options to use as necessary and being able to enjoy a live interactive class, with lovely people, all from my own lounge.
There are a lot of members on the exercise classes now. This may be due to the colder weather where people don’t want to exercise outside and choose this option instead, or maybe there are just more new members – either way it’s great to see, as many studies show the health benefits of taking any form of regular exercise as we get older is beneficial. As well as improving strength, flexibility and balance, it can also help to prevent disease and mental health issues and can even help improve overall immune function.
The Joy Club’s December theme has been celebration and they have been celebrating their 2nd anniversary this month. Two years of pure JOY! As it’s evolved there have been some significant changes. When I joined there were around 30 – 40 wonderful sessions available each month and now, for December, I’ve counted over 100!
These all sound interesting and vibrant and I can see that some expert speakers are being invited back time and again to give different talks. The layout of the website has recently changed too, to my mind for the better, giving easy access to all the recordings of live events, the ability to filter and search for the type of class you’re looking for by day of the week, all very handy for members who don’t have too much spare time on their hands, but want to make the most of The Joy Club’s offerings.
I really like the new layout of the events page too, I think this makes everything much easier to view but I still found it hard to know where to start with the December events – there are just so many of them! If the endless Christmas songs and the supermarket shelves piled high with chocolates and party food haven’t already put you in the mood, then the list of Christmas themed classes available certainly should!
I’ve learned so much around the really important things in life this year, things like nutrition (12 different expert and comprehensive lessons from Valentina so far), wellness (Mindfulness, Beat the Blues Little Book of Happiness, Face Yoga, the Magic of Tidying) and exercise, all excellent sessions to help us practise healthy habits to improve our mental health and to thrive.
Of course, The Joy Club isn’t only about physical and mental wellbeing but also brings joy in many other ways. Without being a member, how on earth would I have had access to a whole raft of live interactive educational expert talks around such diverse topics as: An Introduction to British Sign Language, Beginner’s Spanish, Zoo design and conservation, How bias can affect police investigations, what it might be like living on Mars by an expert astrophysicist and – most recently – How to support our grand children’s learning.
A particularly favourite subject of mine is history and The Joy Club has not failed me with talks on a tour of queer London, women’s suffrage, jubilee and royal history, intrepid Victorian explorers and how exotic animals influenced politics. I could expand my knowledge of all of these things from books and TV programmes (and do) but they don’t give me the option of putting questions directly to an expert and being given a personalised response. And then there are the practical, just for the fun of it, classes like the smartphone photography safaris, Origami and house and garden plant advice.
Then there are all the classes that I haven’t even considered trying yet, so many wonderful sessions around how to support people around you, a travel series, there are various writing groups, book and film clubs, various art classes, Tracie’s solo dancing class, concerts, acting and drama lessons. Wonderful!
As if that’s not enough, you’re never short of a five minute read with all the articles available on the blog. I’ve been very moved recently by poignant blogs from members Sandra and Geraldine around their journeys with personal health issues, these articles are so eye opening and inspirational. Although we rarely get to meet other members face to face, some members certainly mean much more to me than just their image on a zoom screen.
So what’s The Joy Club done for me? I’m fitter, healthier, perhaps a little smarter, filled with joy! and my days have some structure – something missing for so many retirees.
Thank you so much The Joy Club – Hannah, Chloe, our new Community Execs Emily and Jake and, of course, to those who were there when I joined but have now left to go travelling like Ellie and Igor, plus all the behind the scenes staff who we don’t see but we know are there organising new events and keeping the technology going. And, lest I forget, Alice who, wonderfully, encourages me to keep writing these articles.
So well done everyone, with your 2nd birthday you are going from strength to strength, such a great achievement for a small start up business. I wish Chloe and her new husband a lifetime of happiness together and I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy and happy new year.
Even with no adult gifts again this year, as I’ve made so many notes from all the expert talks I’ve joined, I’m secretly hoping someone gets me a new notebook for Christmas!
Want to see what’s coming up next month, see our full Events calendar here.