Chill is for chronically ill people in their 20s and 30s.
I started Chill when I was 28 after spending 18 years house-bound.
Because I didn’t go out, I had no local friends. All my social contact took place online, or with my parents and my parents’ friends. When I was finally able to go out, the first thing I wanted to do was to meet people.
I looked into local groups and realised that as I wasn’t well enough to get to most of them, it would be easier to start my own group. I also realised that it made sense to design my group around the people I wanted to meet: that is, people my own age (who had been so elusive in my life so far), and especially people my own age who would understand me.
Why an age limit?
An age limit helps us target our audience.
Being ill is hard at any age, but a significant challenge of being chronically ill in your 20s and 30s is not knowing anyone else who is chronically ill in their 20s and 30s.
I contacted a few self-help charities, looked online, all the usual things. There were groups aimed at 60+ (which makes sense, as statistically there is more chance that over 60s will have chronic health issues compared to under 60s). I went along to the only ‘all ages’ group that I could find and met some lovely people. However, the youngest person there was 40 years older than me.
Isn’t illness the same for everybody?
Illness affects people differently at different stages of life. The battles and losses are different. Younger adults may lose things that older adults secured in a healthier past, such as friends, education, a career, or children.
I recently I realised that I can’t have children… I went to a group for support and met people my parent’s age who talked a lot about their kids who are my age. Their kids are working, travelling, and starting families. Often the group would reminisce about what they did when they were my age and enjoying the health they had. I need support from people who don’t just understand pain and fatigue, but who also know what it is like when life seems to stop before it starts.
Are you against having friends of different ages?
People benefit from having friends of all ages, including friends their own age. Having same-age friends is normal for the healthy, but it isn’t a given when you are young and ill.
Isn’t an age limit ageist?
We are against ageism. We want opportunities to meet people our own age. This is not ageist.
Feel like I’m going mad when the only people my age I know have careers and holidays and are starting families and I’m doing literally none of it. Can’t work, can’t go on holiday, never went to uni, probs won’t have a family. I have a carer not a career. Makes me feel like a failure. Meeting older ill people was okay but they talked about their work and families and I still felt a failure. The only thing that helped was finally finding people my age who really were in the same boat.
Do you think that older people have nothing to contribute?
Older people have plenty to contribute. Most of our members have local older friends, but many struggle to find peers outside of the internet.
It isn’t just support groups that tend to be older. It is social groups in general. I tried the local photography group, art group, philosophy club… I’m almost always the only attendee under retirement age. I can’t do things most people my age do, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want friends my age. The only people my age I know are on Facebook. I wish I could see them in person.
Can’t you have older and younger people in your group?
We have several people over 45 in Chill (see below), and members can bring a plus one of any age over 18. However, chronically ill young people are a minority. Most young people are healthy, and most ill people are mature. If we want young members to come, we have to be explicit. We need to be intentional in finding each other.
Is there flexibility?
Yes. We have a few older members.
Some of them
- Have been ill from a young age;
- Were invited;
- Were regulars;
- Or are only slightly over the age limit.
Please respect the group’s purpose before you consider joining.
Aren’t you denying older people support?
No. Most support groups are geared towards older people.
Imagine that support groups are patches on a quilt. Each patch has a unique purpose, but they all connect to form something bigger.
Some “patches” highlight:
- A single, specific condition
- Carers only
- Disabled parents
- Older people
- LGBT people
- Healthy disabled people (e.g. Deaf people, amputees, etc)
- Minorities (example)
- Men and mental illness (example)
Most groups exclude to include. Most people fit multiple categories and so go to multiple groups.
If someone starts a group for, say, autistic Muslims, their group needs to be exclusive to work. If it isn’t, like a Halal restaurant selling bacon butties, the original purpose will be lost.
The solution isn’t to eliminate diversity. The solution is for diverse groups to work together. By working together we can create a stronger and more supportive community across Nottingham.
It makes me feel quite sad that people have a negative reaction to the group. Having said that, I totally understand the feeling of unfairness and exclusion- I would imagine most of us feel that on a daily basis! Perhaps a better way to look at Chill is as a group that has guidelines so that younger people don’t feel excluded by the general older swing of other groups available. While I have fun hanging out with teens, and perhaps sharing a few pearls of wisdom, they find huge benefits in having a gathering of their own and I wouldn’t dream of denying them that. The same for parents, or people with the same condition as you: there’s such a relief in finding someone who just ’gets it’.
Thanks to members and friends for their quotes.