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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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