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Staying creative in later life

Hundreds of books stacked on shelves

Winning words

Ruth Lowe, National Manager – Friendship Services, explains how the Age UK Telephone Friendship Service is offering older people new opportunities to have their voices heard.



It’s wonderful to be able to support friendship calls between older people and their telephone friends. And occasionally, as a lovely bonus, we also get to offer older people the chance to try something creative.

The Telephone Friendship Service brings so much joy. Through regular phone calls with a telephone friend, it gives isolated older people the chance to talk to someone new, to share stories and memories, and to have a laugh. We know that some beautiful, long-term friendships have formed out of these weekly chats.

But the service also offers participants the chance to engage with their creative side. As part of a quarterly newsletter, every older person who uses the Telephone Friendship Service is invited to enter a competition to exhibit creativity in one form or another – whether that’s drawing, sharing a memory, or even writing a limerick.

Our most recent competition focused on poetry, and we were blown away by an entry from Gwen, 101, who’s been receiving telephone friendship calls for the past two years. In the poem, Gwen reflects on the things she can no longer do at her age, while celebrating the things that she can do – like enjoying her garden in the summertime.

The Telephone Friendship Service team loved reading Gwen’s poem, The Scent of Summer, with its vivid imagery and vibrant attitude to life. So much so, in fact, that it was declared the winner of the competition.

Here it is for you to enjoy:

The Scent of Summer

I live alone, I'm a hundred and one,
Yet my life is not over, never done.

Summer arrives with a heady scent,
Strolling in the garden, many an hour spent.

Smelling the perfumes of the many flowers,
I love my garden where I could spend several hours.

Now I sit in my colourful bay window
Watching the birds and unfortunately in limbo.

I still enjoy gazing at all my flowers,
I just wish my legs had more power.

Life is for living, I'm a hundred and one,
I can still sit in my window and enjoy the sun.

An opportunity for self-expression

I think the poetry competitions have proved popular with the older people who use our Telephone Friendship Service because people like the idea of getting their words published and having their voices heard. Older people can often be sidelined, but this gives them the opportunity for their talents and contributions to be seen and appreciated. Creative writing can also be restorative and cathartic, allowing older people to explore and express complicated feelings that may arise in later life. 

Not everyone on the service is going to take part in every competition, but we know that we have lots of members who enjoy things like music, drawing, writing and crafts. Ultimately, it’s a chance to get creative or try something new.

New voices, new friends

TFS_500x300.jpgI always love hearing about the wonderful conversations, stories, and – now – poems that have come out of the Telephone Friendship Service.

Each older person that uses the service has their own experiences, hobbies and interests to bring to the table. We always try to match each older person with a volunteer they’ll have something in common with, but most people soon find that they end up talking about anything and everything!

What’s interesting is that the service can give volunteers the chance to experience something new, too. Speaking to an older person who you would never normally interact with in day-to-day life gives volunteers the opportunity to learn from new perspectives, hear new stories and make a new friend. I think volunteers are often surprised by how much they end up enjoying the calls – Gwen’s telephone friend Frances, who also lives alone, says that their weekly chats give her a boost as well.

We get so much feedback from older people about how much their telephone friend means to them, but currently we don’t have enough telephone friendship volunteers for all the older people who need them. If you can commit to a weekly chat with an older person and are eager to learn about someone new, please help us to make a big difference to an isolated older person.

Start the conversation

By volunteering as a telephone friend, you can give crucial companionship to an older person who’s missing the joy of a regular chat.

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Last updated: Sep 02 2022

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