Published on 11 April 2019 11:45 AM
This month’s blog was inspired by a quote from a lady receiving calls from our Telephone Befriending Team. She thanked us for our valuable service and said “it’s lovely to know you have ‘unseen’ friends”.
We offer a free telephone service for older people over 60 who are feeling isolated and lonely in Norfolk. Over 100 volunteers make calls to around 200 people in need every week. Volunteers are carefully recruited, trained and supported to make the calls from their own homes in the county; offering up their spare time to provide compassionate conversation and to take real interest in older people’s lives.
Building a Friendship
Age isn’t a factor in building a friendship; Ethel talks about her volunteer Emma – “We get on so well even though I’m 91 and she is in her 20’s. I make her laugh and she makes me laugh to. We talk about all sorts of things houses, TV, gardens. I think she’s lovely and I do look forward to our chats”.
Half a million older people in the UK go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all (Age UK 2016, No-one Should Have No One). We understand just how important the telephone relationship is to them in knowing they are not alone. On person receiving the service said, "We've become really good friends even though I don't know what she looks like, we talk like we've known each other years".
Friendship by nature has many variations – from having distant ‘friends’ on social media to friendships that blossom into intimate partners. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, to ‘befriend’ means ‘to be friendly towards someone’ and the Oxford Dictionary describes befriending as ‘acting as a friend’. Despite being a professional service, it’s important for us to recognise the meaning of our calls to the individual older people receiving them.
A Friendly Voice
We are a friendly voice on the end of the phone, we build a lasting trusting relationship, create connection and stimulation, increase wellbeing and confidence, and offer meaningful (and fun!) conversations about things that matter to the people we befriend. We know that some of our older people wait by the phone every week for that call that will brighten their day, and others who miss our call that day are so grateful to pick up a voicemail and know we care and have remembered them.
Jim (72), a user of the service explained, “The calls make me feel like I belong to the world, you feel as if you belong to someone and you’re wanted. I really appreciate and enjoy the calls.”
On whatever level friendship is understood, we can’t underestimate the impact of having a ‘friend’ at the end of the phone.