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The best friends who have never met

Selfie photos of two older women on a blue background

“Friendship makes the world go round – you should treasure every moment.”

We speak to Flora and Wendy about their 13-year friendship, and what makes their bond so special.



Best friends Flora and Wendy share everything.

For the past 13 years, they’ve been more than best friends – they’ve been family. But as they formed their connection through the Age UK Telephone Friendship Service, they’ve simply never met.

“As the years have gone by we have settled into our calls and it doesn't seem that strange that we've never met in person,” telephone befriender Wendy explains. “We've made the most of it and have the strongest, loving friendship – one that we treasure.”

A helping hand

Flora, 89, who is originally from Zimbabwe, came across the service after experiencing a stroke while visiting her daughter in the UK.

The mum-of-four and former nurse was placed in sheltered housing in London to aid her recovery. However, the unfamiliar surroundings only made her feel more cut off. “When I came to where I’m living now I knew nobody there, and I’d never lived on my own, so I was a bit lonely,” she says.

An older Black woman chats on the phone at home
Flora enjoys catching up with Wendy
An older Black woman chats on the phone at home
Flora enjoys catching up with Wendy

Her feelings of isolation worsened when during her recovery, her husband of 46 years fell ill back home in Zimbabwe, and died shortly afterwards. “I went back and saw him one last time,” she explains. “But then he passed away.”

A helping hand came in the form of a visit from Age UK. “A lady from Age UK came to talk to us and spoke about the friendship service for people who are lonely. She said that if they wanted, they could have a friend to call them on a certain day,” says Flora. She immediately signed up.

Flora and Wendy – who hold the record for the service’s longest telephone friendship – admit they clicked from the first call. “I was fascinated and I just wanted to talk more!” laughs Flora. “Wendy is a happy person – the kind of person I've never heard complain about anything.”

“Flora is an exceptional lady,” chimes in Wendy, who lives in Hampshire. “She is outgoing and we just talk non-stop. I don't know who enjoys the calls more! Flora is a loving, positive person and is a joy to talk to.”

Going from strength to strength

Flora and Wendy are clearly one another’s biggest fans – Wendy calls Flora “my BFF” – and they now speak for half an hour three times a week.

The support that the pair give each other has also grown over time. “Our friendship has gone from strength to strength because we see each other's families as our own families,” says Wendy. “My Dad passed away a few months ago and Flora was as devastated as I was. Her strength and faith helped me during my saddest moments.”

A portrait shot of a young Black woman with glasses
Flora as a young woman in Zimbabwe
A portrait shot of a young Black woman with glasses
Flora as a young woman in Zimbabwe

The calls have a profound impact on Flora, too. “Wendy can laugh with me, and you don’t become lost, don’t become lonely. I don't feel the loneliness anymore.”

As well as offering companionship and conversation, engaging friendships can also expand our knowledge and view of the world. For Wendy, listening to Flora’s stories and memories has helped her explore places she’s never been. Wendy says: “Flora tells me about her early life in Africa, of the house and garden she had there. She has an amazing memory!” Flora adds: “I’ve talked so much about Zimbabwe it is like she knows it – what we do, what we eat, everything!”

And though Wendy highly values Flora’s wisdom and experience, the fact they are from different generations simply hasn’t really occurred to them. “I don't even think about a generation gap between us,” says Wendy. She pauses, before recollecting a possible exception. “I find that I say things to Flora that I used to say to my Dad, things like ‘don't forget to drink water during the day’. There is that common bond of love and caring between us.”

The benefits of befriending

An older woman with a grey-blonde pixie cut takes a selfie in her home
Wendy's making a difference
An older woman with a grey-blonde pixie cut takes a selfie in her home
Wendy's making a difference

In addition to her friendship with Wendy, Flora now has a full life attending many church events on Zoom, and keeping up with friends and family. But Wendy can’t help but reflect on the many older people across the UK who, like Flora 13 years ago, still feel cut off and alone.

“Befriending somebody is one of the best things you can do,” says Wendy. “Knowing that they love to speak to you, that you're helping them is its own reward. If you can make a person happy just by making a telephone call, then do it.

“I've learned that friendship makes the world go round and you should treasure every moment.”

We need more telephone friends

Can you spare 30 minutes a week to chat with an isolated older person? You might just find your own new best friend.

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Last updated: Jul 24 2023

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