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Befriending volunteer Lynsey Finlayson visits Tom Bailey for Age UK North Tyneside

Are you stuck in the house because of the Coronavirus crisis?

Age UK North Tyneside Telephone befriending is there to offer you a friendly chat over the phone a couple of times a week.  We can match you with one of our volunteers who will phone you twice a week at a fixed time, and we will do our best to make sure that’s the same person each time so you can grow a real friendship.

Over 100 older people have been kept from loneliness since the start of the Covid-19 crisis thanks to our new telephone befriending service.

We have delivered a successful Befriending Service – where volunteers are matched with older people based in North Tyneside for the last 20 years, but because of lockdown and people’s need to self-isolate, we’ve adapted this popular service to socially-distance.

Head of Charity Services, Yvonne Probert, said: “Loneliness can affect people in very different ways and even if an older person has family and friends, they may still have times when they may feel lonely or are in need of friendship.

“Our befriending services offer older people a chance to share their stories, make a new friend and connect with someone outside their usual social circle.

“It is fantastic that we have many more people coming on board to receive support from Age UK North Tyneside, but we are always on the lookout for more people to work with – both as befrienders and befriendees.

Many older people are still receiving their Befriending support over the phone as they continue to socially distance. Moving forward, Befriending customers  (who are matched with a volunteer by us, based on their needs and interests) will be able to choose if they receive the service over the phone, or face-to-face.

We have a number of volunteers already checked, trained and ready to call and more volunteers registering with us on a daily basis.  In these strange times of social distancing we can all use a friendly chat from time to time.

Just give us a call at Age UK North Tyneside and we will start the ball rolling..Telephone 0191 2808484 

Befriending Case Study - Lindsay and Tom

Customer Tom Bailey, 91, received regular phone calls from Volunteer Befriender Lynsey Finlayson for five months before he was able to meet her face-to-face again.

He said having someone to talk to has helped him get through lockdown, and helps him take his mind off any worries he has.

The great-grandfather said: “Lynsey is a such a lovely young lady and I love when she comes to see me. It takes my mind off any troubles that I have and puts me at ease."

Befriending Case Study - Sabena and Harry*

During these uncertain times hearing a friendly voice on a regular basis can be uplifting for us all but more so if you live alone. Our Telephone Befriending service supports people aged 50 plus years in North Tyneside and has seen increased demand during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Harry has lived in North Tyneside for over 40 years and now lives alone.

He is lucky as he has two sons and one lives nearby. Harry was referred to falls exercise classes after having had a bad fall. It was during one of these sessions that he heard about the befriending service and got in touch with Age UK North Tyneside..

Sabena is one of our dedicated volunteers who supports the Telephone Befriending service and is Harry's befriender. They share a mutual interest in Newcastle United Football Club. Sabena is retired herself and moved to the north east in the 80’s, where lives with her partner.

She says “I got involved in the befriending service because I had some spare time during lockdown and wanted to help someone also locked down or isolating. I really enjoy and look forward to our chats, we usually have a good laugh at something along the way!

I love talking about politics, the local area and of course football as both of us support the Newcastle United football team. We have some fun predicting the score of Newcastle United’s next match and have a friendly wager on the scores and chat about match of the day.

We love to talk about the local area, how it’s changed, what we used to do for a living etc so the time flies by.”

Harry said “It’s a lovely service you should be proud of it and when this Covid is over I would love to meet up for a coffee and say thank you.”

To access our Telephone Befriending Service contact our Customer Service Team Tel: 0191 2808484 or e mail enquiries@ageuknorthtyneside.org.uk

*Some names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.

Befriending Case study - Gerry, Carole and Angela

Gerry Robinson 81, retired Aircraft Engineer, is an experienced Volunteer Befriender with Age UK North Tyneside.Gerry Robinson
Supporting befriendees in our community since 2015, Gerry usually visits befriendees in their home environment to help reduce their social isolation and loneliness.
When the nation entered lockdown in March 2020, Gerry recognised that it was going to be tough for us all and many of us might lose our confidence as the weeks progressed.
Gerry wanted to help and offered to telephone two of our customers regularly, building strong trusting friendships over time.
Gerry believes that sharing happy memories helps us all to maintain our confidence and self-esteem.

He said
I try to help by taking Carole and Angela* back to the happiest times in their lives. We re-enact them together, and as I am 81 and have some experience of life, I can engage and empathise with them on so many topics.
They actually chuckle and laugh a lot as we draw back the curtains of time and walk through the portals of memory to their earlier days of joy and happiness.
Luckily, memory plays good tricks sometimes, and they remember the lovely times with their husbands and children. Looking back it seems their children rarely misbehaved and how they all laughed so much, and of course the sun then seemed to shine almost every day.

As we approach the end of the year, Gerry’s friendship has made a difference. Gerry said “When we discuss these things, I can feel them becoming stronger and most importantly, more confident.  
And, of course, through bringing happiness and laughter to Carole and Angela it is also impacting on myself. My daughter, who is a paramedic, and spends her life rescuing and helping other people has noticed the change in me. It is a change for the better brought about by listening and sharing experiences.

Befriending Coordinator Beverley Swan agrees. “Studies show that the benefits of having a befriending relationship result in positive outcomes for everyone. Being part of the community, doing something meaningful, helping others and perhaps trying something new, makes everyone’s confidence grow.”

Gerry has also taken the time to write this inspiring letter, describing how he has approached the telephone befriending role and encouraging others to do likewise.

To my surprise I found this new role to be very easy and very rewarding both to my befriendees and to myself. Both of the ladies that I ring are in their 80s and 90s and they experience real bouts of loneliness. I relieve their burden three ways.

Firstly, I keep them talking as much as possible, only interrupting when I think it’s necessary to keep conversation going. I believe that one of the primary dangers of loneliness is not being able to talk to someone. After a while they lose the odd word and then, a few months later, the odd sentence of expression. This, along with a growing loss of memory leads to a fear of conversation itself. This in turn leads to a withdrawal from human contact. This will of course lead to even more intense loneliness. I believe the way to slow down this terrifying process is to encourage the befriendee to talk as much as possible during these half hour sessions.
Secondly, I try to help by taking Carole and Angela back to the happiest times in their lives. We re-enact them together, and as I am 81 and have some experience of life, I can engage and empathise with them on so many topics. They actually chuckle and laugh a lot as we draw back the curtains of time and walk through the portals of memory to their earlier days of joy and happiness. Luckily, memory plays good tricks sometimes, and they remember the lovely times with their husbands and children. Looking back it seems their children rarely misbehaved and how they all laughed so much, and of course the sun then seemed to shine almost every day.
But we also remember the difficult times – the war; the fear for loved ones; the bomb shelters; the food rationing. Walking sometimes long distances to school, sometimes in terrible weather. Walking through a cold house with only a candle to light the way. Getting into freezing beds in the winter – I could go on.
In the distance of time we laugh so much about these things, but, by bringing up the topic, I can highlight some of the good things that are happening to them now. Security in their homes; central heating; financial safety net through the welfare system; the luxury of the car; flights abroad; the internet; the mobile phone; and of course TV and radio. So many good things.
When we discuss these things, I can feel them becoming stronger and most importantly, more confident. And, of course, through bringing happiness and laughter to Carole and Angela, it is also impacting on myself. My daughter, who is a paramedic, and spends her life rescuing and helping other people has noticed the change in me. It is a change for the better brought about by listening and sharing experiences.
Thirdly, I don’t argue or criticise my befriendees. I let them unload their cares and worries onto me. After a week on their own they need to express their loneliness and fears. Instead of disagreeing, I let things ride, keeping the conversation going with expressions such as – I take your point, I agree, I’m sure you are right and, that’s a good point. This way they can be confident to keep talking, knowing there will be no confrontation only quiet understanding.

And finally, because of the changes for the good that this befriending has brought about, I would ask and recommend anyone, whatever age you are, to join me in this rewarding journey. All you need to do is pick up your phone and ring 0191 2877013
By doing this you will be helping lonely old people, and helping Age UK North Tyneside in the vitality important and wonderful work that they do.

*Some names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.

Or if you prefer to chat in the evenings or at weekends:

The Silver Line helpline is the only UK-wide, 24/7 confidential helpline for lonely, older people. It is for those who would like a “friendly chat”. The service has helped create thousands of new friendships, and many people say their calls are the highlight of their week. You don’t need to be feeling lonely (though if you are, we’d like to help), and you don’t need to live on your own and its FREE on 0800 4 70 80 90. Sometimes it’s just nice to talk.

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The SilverLine is not an information and advice line helpline, but will sign-post you to your local team here at Age UK North Tyneside Tel: 0191 2808484.

The Silver Line helpline is in partnership with Age UK and refers callers through to local Age UKs and other services, depending on any need identified in the call.

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