Mytime Active 20th Birthday - Member's stories
Jean Smith-Chandler, 79, lives in Bromley. Originally from South Africa, Jean and her husband moved back to the UK in 2008 after a brutal attack at their home in South Africa.
Jean says: “My husband Michael was a Londoner, who emigrated to South Africa after World War Two. We met in Cape Town in 1976 and were incredibly close for 45 years. In 2007 we experienced a horrible trauma that brought us even closer. While we were staying at our holiday home in Plettenberg Bay, three masked men broke in and beat us up. It was a truly brutal attack; we should not have survived. It was a miracle that we did.
“Once we had recovered, Michael and I decided we couldn’t cope with the violence and crime in South Africa any longer, so we decided to move back to England.”
Back in the UK, Jean says that she and Michael went into hibernation. The shock of their attack left them feeling vulnerable and wanting to get away from the world.
“We just wanted to be together, that’s what made us happiest,” says Jean. “But soon after we arrived in England, Michael was diagnosed with a very rare form cancer. After a short but extremely traumatic illness, he died.
“I realised I was completely alone. I had no one; no friends, no family. My grief was so extreme I lost the ability to speak. I could barely get out of bed and felt there was nothing to live for. I was in a very bad place.”
Jean’s GP sent her to see a therapist, who convinced her that doing some exercise might help improve how low she was feeling. After a chance encounter with a neighbour, who mentioned Primetime sessions at the Pavilion Leisure Centre in Bromley, Jean decided to give it a go. Becoming involved with Mytime Active’s Primetime programme became a lifeline for Jean, so much so that she now spends several hours a day at the Pavilion, taking part in classes including yoga, keep fit, Zumba, line dancing and paracise.
“Everyone I met at The Pavilion was just so lovely. Little by little, I got into it. Going to the classes gave me a reason to get out of bed. I was a professional dancer and dance teacher in South Africa, and gradually, when I heard the music, my old self started to come back. I would push myself to the limit and come out exhausted, which helped me to sleep and gradually I started to take care of myself again.
“I now do 11 classes a week and I can honestly say it has saved my life. I have nothing but praise for the lovely people who work at Mytime and the work they do. I feel very blessed to have use of the wonderful facilities.
“I believe exercise is vital for everyone, but especially for older people who wish to remain active and healthy, both physically and mentally. Primetime is such a good resource; I don’t think it’s obvious to most people the extent of the good work Mytime Active actually does.”