What's it like to be an Age UK befriender?
Deirdre decided to volunteer as a befriender for older people with her local Age UK after she retired. She's now friends with Martel, who's living with dementia.
Deirdre shares what befriending means to her.
"I retired a few years ago and, although I've really enjoyed spending quality time lunching with friends, holidaying with my husband and playing with my gorgeous grandchildren, I felt that I wanted to do something else in my latter years that would be helpful to someone in my local community.
"I did a quick assessment of my abilities and scoured the varying websites for volunteering jobs.
"I decided that I would like to offer companionship to an older person who is living on their own and I went straight to the Age UK website for information."
The perfect fit
"Befriending fitted the bill perfectly for me. This was what I wanted to do. It only takes an hour of your time each week to either visit an older person or you can call them on the telephone. I chose to make weekly visits.
"I completed an online application form and was contacted immediately by my local organiser to arrange a visit to my home for a recruitment and matching meeting. At the meeting, which was very informal, I shared my background and completed a 'disclosure and barring check' form to ensure that I was a suitable person.
"Next, I attended a one-day course for newly recruited befriending volunteers which was extremely helpful. I felt very valued by the Age UK trainers.
"I was quickly matched with a lady in her 80s who lives on her own in a town near to my home. I was really excited!"
"The local organiser accompanied me on my first visit. We were introduced and, as we sat talking together, I knew that we were a great match. We had so much in common!
"I was told that she has been diagnosed with early signs of dementia and this has sadly impaired her memory. Although this could have been daunting to me as a befriender, I visited the Dementia UK website and found some really useful information that has helped me."
I have been befriending now for 6 months and really look forward to my visits. She is such a lovely lady with a wicked sense of humour!
Reliving happy memories
"During my visits, I have learned that I just need to be patient and a good listener. She can repeat things many times but I just respond with a smile as if it is the first time that she has told me.
"I once arrived to find that she was dressed in heavy winter clothing during the hot spell of weather. I suggested that she changed into something cooler. Whilst we were looking in her wardrobe for a blouse, we found a beautiful silk shawl. She then remembered where she had bought it and this triggered happy memories of her holiday in India with her husband.
"I have found that simple tasks around the home have often lead to valuable and enjoyable discussions about her childhood and adult life.
"What we do during my visits can vary - we have tea and cake, eat lunch together, look at photo albums, listen to music, go for short walks, visit the local garden centre. I've also taken her to her hairdressing appointments."
I've found my niche
"My visits tend to last longer than an hour but that is my choice. Most importantly, we have fun and we value each other.
"I have been befriending now for 6 months and really look forward to my visits. She is such a lovely lady with a wicked sense of humour! I now feel that we are friends and I have met her family. She has told me that she really enjoys my company too and wishes that I could visit more often.
"I have found my niche and it is humbling to know that I am making such a difference to someone's life."