Posted by Steve Lettau on Dec 27, 2022

By Dave King Photography by Serena Brown

For Vera Cranmer and Sylvia Worden, two friends in their 80s, it's hard to overstate how much they look forward to their regular visits with the teenage students at a local college on England's south coast. "We savor these visits like reunions with long-lost friends," Worden says.

The women live independently in their homes in Chichester, a picturesque and vibrant cathedral city near the sea. But Worden, who once worked as a teacher there, was widowed a few years ago, and her outings in town are far less frequent. Cranmer, too, has had to cope with feelings of isolation.

Today, though, the two women are among a dozen elders, as they call themselves, having a lively discussion about the royal family with the students at Chichester College. "I really enjoy the discussions with the young people. Some of them are so aspirational," says Worden. "I am probably one of the younger elders there, but I've made good friends with a lady who is 92. It's a great outlet for a lot of the older residents."

Cranmer, 88, agrees. "Sometimes I'm not sure if I want to go out, but when I come back home, I feel I've had a good morning. It's nice to meet other people like myself, but it's really nice to meet the youngsters, to see a different side and come back feeling positive." Cranmer once worked as an occupational therapist, specializing in caring for people with cerebral palsy. These days, she has difficulty walking and depends on the on-demand minibus transport to get to the college. "I couldn't manage without it," she says.