loneliness

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Lockdown Loneliness

Do you know an older person who is living alone, rarely leaves the house, has recently suffered a bereavement, is in poor health, disabled, has sight or hearing loss, or doesn’t seem to have close family living nearby?

You could ask them if they need any help with tasks such as shopping, posting letters or picking up prescriptions and medicines.  Practical help may be an absolute blessing to them but what if they really need a chance to talk to someone for more than just a few words on the doorstep?  And they want to have a good old chinwag over a cup of tea to cheer themselves up?

During lockdown telephone befriending was a fantastic way to connect isolated people with their community & offered by many national and local groups .  Now with lockdown easing, local befriending services are opening up where possible to offer face-to-face meetings between befrienders and befriendees, socially distanced in the garden, the park or at a café, but now giving that closer contact.

Your contribution could be as simple as a weekly telephone call to an isolated older person, or extend to regular home visits for a chat and to help with shopping.  Read the difference it made to one person below:

“I lost my wife a year ago and had given up on most of the clubs and things we used to do together, so when lockdown happened in March I had already run down the number of friends we used to be in contact with.  We never had kids so I’ve no family local, just a couple of brothers up north.  It hit me really really hard not being able to go out – although I’m 80 I still enjoy walks and wandering round the town centre.

Suddenly I found myself totally isolated from everyone it felt.  The only contact I had for the first month was when the council arranged for food parcels but I felt so lonely and sad by myself. Everything on the tele was about the virus, virus this virus that, it made me really anxious to even go in the garden.

Then the lady from the council suggested me having a befriender to phone me each week. I didn’t want to at first but then I began to enjoy the calls. I don’t have a computer so we just talked on the phone, me and the young lad. Didn’t know what he looked like until things got easier with lockdown and Jack came over and sat in the garden with me.  Can’t tell you how great it is to have that to look forward to each week.  He stays quite a while, sometimes more than an hour, but it’s not difficult to fill the time.  We talk about all sorts of things and laugh a lot. “

There are a number of local charities offering befriending services if you know someone who needs support or you would like to volunteer:

Runnymede: Runnymede Befriending Service

Spelthorne: Age UK Surrey

Surrey Heath: Time to Talk and Surrey Heath Age Concern

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A Volunteer’s Story – Befriending Week 2019

‘I first met J, a 90 year old lady in January 2014. It was the first time I’d been a befriender but my flat is 5 minutes from her home so it was really convenient. We were both uncertain of how it would go but we found it easy to chat over tea and her delicious homemade cakes.

As time passed, I helped her with her garden and we got closer. I was really interested to hear about her life and she was interested in mine too. We became real friends.

J turned 96 this month and I’m proud to say that we have really grown to love one another. We are very different in ages and background but we just seemed to click and enjoy any time we spend together.

J now has live-in carers so is still happily living in her home. I visit 2 or 3 times a week and on good days we play cribbage, which she taught me, and I still do her garden under her careful supervision!

I am so glad I became a befriender and met this wonderful lady.’

For a growing number of people, particularly those in later life, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on their wellbeing. 3.6 million older people in the UK live alone, of whom over 2 million are aged over 75.

We have befriending volunteering opportunities all over Surrey. It’s an easy process and you will get as much as you give – please make a difference and be a friend.

Surrey Heath Age Concern http://www.sh-ac.org.uk call 01252 266841

Age UK Surrey : https://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/befriending-services/ call 01483 503414

Time to Talk https://voluntarysupport.org.uk/volunteering/time-to-talk/ call 01276 707565

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Befriending in North Surrey

Time to Talk is our befriending project in Surrey Heath. Over the last 6 months we’ve heard some lovely stories from our befrienders and the people they’ve spent time with:

Glen’s daughter became concerned about her mum who had always loved to chat was now struggling to socialise. Glen had suffered a loss, been unwell, moved house and was feeling lonely and isolated. ‘Time to Talk’ matched Glen with Yasmin, one of our volunteers, they hit it off immediately and Yasmin has visited Glen weekly ever since.

Glen’s daughter has noticed a big difference in her mum since the visits started. Glen very much enjoys Yasmin’s company, her visits are ‘the highlight of Mum’s week’. ‘Absolutely gorgeous’ is how Glen describes her time spent with Yasmin, ‘it gives me something to look forward to, we talk about all sorts of things, current affairs, dating and have a good laugh’.

Yasmin tells us that she wished she started volunteering years ago because the time she spends with Glen is lots of fun and flies by. They enjoy sharing stories and experiences, including the way dating has changed over the years, Yasmin had never heard of a dance hall!!

It’s a small thing to be a friend but it has such a huge impact. Why don’t you make a difference to someone’s life by being a Time to Talk volunteer https://voluntarysupport.org.uk/volunteering/time-to-talk/

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Start a Conversation

We are midway through National Conversation Week, a week in which we are challenged to try a little harder to engage with those around us; to start a conversation. Most of us are guilty of sending a text, writing an email or searching online, rather than speaking with someone, but for those of us experiencing loneliness, this online world can increase feelings of social isolation.

Loneliness impacts people of all ages and stages of life, it does not discriminate.

Around 15% of working age people and a similar number of 65-70 year olds, reported feeling lonely in a recent study. Reports of loneliness in the 17-25 age range are as high as 43%.

Loneliness can have a significant impact on our health and well being, on a par with smoking 15 cigarettes a day and costs the NHS £1.8 billion a year. It is easy to do something to help.

Talking to one another is rewarding, interesting and fun. Why not to spend this week trying a little harder to talk with people around you. Chat to the person next to you at the bus stop, catch up with old friends or call in on an elderly neighbour.

You can make a longer term difference by being a befriender in our local community so get in touch with alison@voluntarysupport.org.uk or elaine@voluntarysupport.org.uk to find out more.

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Time for a Cuppa

There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia right now and approximately 3000 people in our community of North Surrey. We can all feel lonely at times but people living with dementia and those who care for them face even bigger challenges. A third of people with dementia said they had lost friends following their diagnosis. The stigma around dementia can lead to people becoming isolated and poor experiences with the general public can make people withdraw from society. Becoming socially isolated can lead to a loss of confidence and a sense of loneliness, both of which have a negative impact on well-being.

Dementia UK are tackling the issues around dementia by providing specialist nurses to help people live positively with dementia but we can all do something to help others. Reaching out to people in our community who may be lonely or socially isolated can make a big difference. A small gesture like sharing a cuppa with a person who is feeling lonely can give so much, they will have something to look forward to, a sense of connection to others and a feeling that they are cared for. As one lady recently matched with a befriender said ‘I just miss having conversations with people’. 

You can tackle loneliness in your community and raise funds for Dementia UK during Time for a Cuppa week (1st to 8th of March). Why not share a tea party with friends and family, or reach out to someone in your community who may be lonely.

You can make a longer term difference by being a befriender in our local community so get in touch with alison@voluntarysupport.org.uk or elaine@voluntarysupport.org.uk to find out more.

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