Words by Smiley Team
A Liverpool-based charity for older people is making sure nobody stays isolated beyond the pandemic.
During the coronavirus lockdowns, loneliness was a hotly-discussed topic – one which seemed to lessen once restrictions were lifted.
But Age Concern knows that isolation, particularly among elderly people, was an issue long before the pandemic, and is working hard to connect those isolated with a friend.
Volunteers trained by Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton, through the Befriending & Re-ablement service, will visit the client once a week to offer support and a friendly face.
“The volunteer doesn’t have to do anything for them except be a friend," says Peter Davies, who manages the volunteers at the Sefton branch. "They can go for a walk, have a coffee, or listen to music. They’re just there as a friend."
Age Concern regularly has space for new clients on their Befriending Service for those 50+ who are lonely or isolated.
A Befriending and Re-ablement Officer will offer six weeks of support to assess the client’s wellbeing and their environment as well as ensuring they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to.
They are there to support them in their worries, encouraging a positive outlook and setting personal goals. After the initial six weeks an isolated person who still wants support will be partnered with a volunteer who will befriend them.
Around 500,000 older people in the UK go at least five days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone.
Peter said the story that sticks in his mind is one about a man who had been invited to a gathering for elderly people who were isolated.
“One of the men said: ‘I’ve got a lot to worry about in life but my main fear is that I’ll go without speaking to someone for so long that I’ll forget how to speak.’”
Through Age Concern’s Befriending service, the same volunteer attends every session to foster a genuine relationship between them and the client.
“It’s lovely and it provides a lifeline," says Peter. "It is the only link that some of these people have with the outside world. It does the volunteer and the client a world of good."
VOLUNTEER: To find out more about Age Concern’s work in Liverpool and Sefton, how to volunteer, or how to make a referral visit their website.
GET INVOLVED: If you’re based outside of Merseyside and want to help a lonely older person, find opportunities with Age UK.