When Chris joined Livability’s day service in the East Midlands last year, he was hoping to make friends – but didn’t dream he would meet his wife-to-be.
This service provides lifeskills, training and activities in line with government’s social prescribing focus, as part of Livability’s wider services in the region. He struck up a close friendship with Eileen, who has been part of The Links for many years. Friendship soon turned to romance and the couple began to date.
Both have learning disabilities and Livability supports Chris (64) in the community, as well as at Livability’s The Links day service in Brackley. Eileen, who is 79, has support at home to make life run smoothly since her first husband died several years ago. Both Chris and Eileen wanted support to make dates happen, so Livability staff helped them arrange romantic meals, canal walks, and trips to the cinema and ten-pin bowling.
Come Valentine’s Day, staff member Sharon worked with Chris to put plans in place for a special lunch at a local pub. ‘Chris was dressed in a suit and looked extremely handsome,’ says service manager Mandy Himpson. ‘Unbeknown to his key worker, Chris had big plans – he had been practicing his proposal in the taxi to the pub. Once the meal had finished, Chris asked Eileen to marry him, she said yes and they kissed. Chris was extremely excited and had even asked his keyworker Sharon to video the happy event!’
What does Chris love about Eileen? ‘She’s a lovely girl and I think the world of her. And she’s good-looking.’ And how does Eileen feel? She takes Chris’ hand as she says: ‘I think Chris is wonderful. I miss him when he’s not here. We’re getting married soon because I love him.’
Because Livability services are passionate about making their support fit the person, rather than the other way round, staff at The Links put in extra effort to provide the most flexible service they can for Chris, Eileen and everyone they support. This gets noticed in the community, Mandy finds: ‘Whilst Chris and Eileen were having this magical moment in the pub, the couple on the next table had overheard everything. They pulled Sharon to one side to say how lovely it is to see a staff member supporting the happy couple and what a good job she was doing.’
Looking at each other, the couple say they plan to marry in a registry office and they laugh together when they say their favourite date is – Chris signals emptying a pint – going to the pub. Plus ‘kissing and cuddling – we like that!’ says Eileen. Eileen says she has ‘lots of clothes’ but wants a special dress for the big day .
‘I like it here, it’s not like the other places, because people talk to each other here,’ says Chris, explaining why The Links support means so much to him and Eileen. ‘We like all the staff and I know if I have any trouble, I can talk to my keyworker.’ The couple are unanimous about where they want their reception – at The Links, where they met.