HE WAS a highly active pensioner whose life was turned upside down by a stroke five years ago.

Retired teacher Colin Jones has largely regained the power of speech but can no longer use his workshop, ride his motorcycle or travel abroad.

However the 81-year-old has made a huge amount of progress with the help of Totton Stroke Support Group, which meets once a week.

Now he has highlighted the importance of the group after it emerged it is suffering from a shortage of volunteers.

The Stroke Association says more helpers are needed to ensure it can continue to operate when any of the existing stalwarts are away.

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Colin, of Rownhams, said: "Joining the group has helped me a tremendous amount.

"I can talk freely to anyone. I’ve always been involved in singing and we’ve done some singing recently. My voice is a bit croaky, but never mind."

His wife Angela added: “Colin’s stroke was life-changing.

"He has aphasia, which involves difficulty with communication. At first it was complete gobbledygook and then some phrases started to emerge.

"Now his speech is slow and he sometimes struggles for words, but we’re very blessed he has got his speech back to a large degree.

“Social interaction at the stroke group is really important, being with people who understand his situation.

"For me it’s brilliant because it gives me an afternoon when I know he’s out in a different environment, enjoying himself and talking to others.

“I’m so grateful to the volunteers and the way they give their time. I’m in awe of people who do that.”

The group is currently helping almost 50 people to rebuild their lives.

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Chairman Steve Parker said: "Stroke survivors benefit from being with others who understand their situation and can encourage each other.

“Many have speech problems and are able to improve their communication in a fun environment. Talking is good exercise for brains which have been damaged by stroke.

“Carers are able to have a few hours off, knowing their relative will have people to talk to and have fun with.

“We need as many volunteers as possible so that if people are away we can still run the group. We need people who can help organise and people who can help stroke survivors with their communication, so that they can enjoy coming along.

“They don’t need to have experience of stroke, although those who’ve had strokes themselves or have been carers are welcome.

The group meets at Totton and Eling Community Centre every Wednesday at 1.30pm. Anyone interested in volunteering can email suzie.maidment@stroke.org.uk or call 023 8072 0420.