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Age UK’s befriending services are made possible through the many volunteers who offer their time to provide companionship to lonely older people. We catch up with 3 of them to find out what they do, and what motivates them.
Marie volunteers as a befriender in Dudley, visiting a lady in her 90s. Talking about her visits, she said: ‘Generally we go out to places like garden centres. We have been known to go to the shopping centre if it’s raining. It’s about finding venues where I can park close by, but easy for them to access, because their mobility’s not brilliant.’
Neil volunteers as a befriender in Stockport, visiting a man with early onset Alzheimer’s. Neil commented: ‘He’s still very switched on. He talks to me about the papers and he will pick out certain articles of interest that are quite funny. He has a lovely garden and will tell me about the plants and flowers.’
When asked why she volunteers, Marie enthuses: ‘I’ll be honest I get a kick out of helping them. Sounds silly but I do. You also learn such a lot from them. Even though I’m 60, I’ve never been through a war. We recently started chatting about Christmas, and how she didn’t get any presents during the war.’
And this isn’t the only thing that Marie’s learnt through befriending. She adds, ‘The training’s been excellent. I would highly recommend becoming a befriender to anyone.’
Sharing his own thoughts on befriending, Neil agrees, ‘It’s about friendship, and knowing they get some value from your visits. And you learn new skills too.’
But the appeal of being a befriender isn’t just about having opportunities to learn new things, as Mel, a volunteer with Age UK’s ‘Call in Time’ telephone befriending service, explains: ‘Oh yes. no question about it. You actually look forward to chatting to them. It’s quite strange how you build it up. I don’t think anyone could get nothing out of it, unless they don’t like talking to people.’
‘I think when I get to that stage I’ll have someone to call me because it saves someone from being lonely. It’s a great service.’
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