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ACE volunteering: Andy and Ray

Published on 02 May 2024 08:54 AM

Andy and Ray were a part of our ACE project, matching older people to support each other.


Andy’s experience as an ACE volunteer: “We get on like a house on fire!”

Andy was an Age UK Bristol ACE (Active, Connected, Engaged) volunteer during the 6 month intervention. However, they both enjoyed their time together so much, he continues to meet his 'buddy', Ray*. Andy shared his experience of the project with us.

Andy is a widower in his seventies and moved to Bristol from Cambridge to be closer to his daughter and her family in 2022. As an active member of his community in Cambridge, Andy set about getting settled in his new home by volunteering with local organisations and joining the U3A. However, Andy wanted to support someone locally but didn’t know how to find the right volunteer role.

Andy first heard about the ACE programme at his doctor’s surgery where he completed a survey regarding health and well-being. The ACE programme was part of a University of Birmingham study funded by the NHS, to assess how Peer Support between older people can benefit health and wellbeing. At the end of the survey, Andy was asked if he didn’t need help himself, could he volunteer to help someone else? This was how Andy became an Age UK Bristol volunteer and met Ray.

Ray, like Andy, is also a widower. He lost his wife during the covid pandemic, and his son shortly before that. Despite his losses, Andy describes Ray as being a “very optimistic guy” with an interest in technology and in getting a good bargain! “Most weeks he tells me how much he’s paid for his hearing aids, and whether you can get a better price for things in Lidl and Aldi. He’s never sorry for himself, I find it uplifting and he’s very good company.” The men meet about once a week; they walk to the cafe at their local community centre, up a very steep hill, and then enjoy a well-deserved cake.

“We sometimes have to stop and he has a puff from his inhaler, but then he’ll tell me it’s the second or third time he’s walked up the hill that week, he gets out and about more since we met. He’s not reliant on me at all. One of the ladies at Ray’s accommodation did say she thought it was doing him a ‘world of good’ because it’s nearly all women where he lives. We get on like a house on fire!”

With Andy’s encouragement, Ray recently got his bus pass and the two have been catching the bus together further afield. For Ray, it was the first time in years that he’d been on a bus. Ray has since applied for his Blue Badge so that family and friends who drive him places can park more easily. “He doesn’t let the grass grow once he’s got an idea!” said Andy.

For Andy himself, volunteering has been a very positive experience. It has helped him get to know his new home, and he has particularly enjoyed learning about the local history from Ray who was born and brought up in Bristol and shares stories of working in the chocolate factories. “It’s doing me good to help Ray,” Andy said. “I get to help someone who’s outside of my usual social circle, and I also get treated very well at the community centre too!” The community centre has run a few different activities including gardening which Ray and Andy have attended together and enjoyed helping out painting bird boxes and tending to the flower beds.

In addition to the activities that Ray and Andy have done together, Andy has found that volunteering has led to him taking part in other social activities in his area, such as a train trip to Yatton with the community centre and also theatre visits through the Age UK Bristol’s FAB offers. “I got to see 42nd Street with a friend from the U3A, it was absolutely brilliant, and since then we’ve been to the Bristol Old Vic and lunchtime concerts at St George’s. It’s helped my social life along quite a bit.”

ACE was funded by St Monica Trust. 

You can find out about other volunteering opportunities on our volunteering page.