Gordon & Martyn's Befriending Journey
Published on 02 November 2021 10:42 AM
Gordon was first referred to us at Age UK South Gloucestershire (AUKSG) for our Specialist Benefits Advice Service. As part of this support, the team referred Gordon to the Befriending Service in 2019, shortly after his wife passed away. Gordon was housebound and therefore didn't interact with many people. He had female family members or carers to speak with, but he was looking for a male friend that he could chat with just like he used to with his friends in the past. He said, "at my age, I've run out of male friends now, and I miss that; I appreciate talking to someone I can discuss most subjects with that isn't family...I also find there is a great variation when speaking to someone younger."
Due to the pandemic, it was challenging to find a suitable volunteer for Gordon who could offer telephone befriending in the interim throughout the lockdown period. Still in January 2021, our Volunteer Coordinator found a volunteer named Martyn and believed they'd be an ideal match.
Martyn retired from his overseas career in 2018 and returned to the UK to enjoy his time; now, he wasn't working any longer. Martyn said that loneliness and the act of befriending someone had always been something he had thought about pursuing. He said he always “thought that loneliness was one of the worst forms of human suffering".
He had spent some of his life working for a medical aid charity that offered physiological care in disaster crisis areas. So, he did have some experience of the effects of trauma and loss on people. Still, he said "what I knew existed in even more affluent countries such as the UK was the pain of isolation. I realised there were very few people doing much about it because it's largely such a hidden pain. I always thought that even I could be helpful to other people in that area. I searched around online and found that AUKSG was providing a Befriending Service."
Martyn and Gordon were firstly matched via the telephone as, at this time, the UK was in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This didn't worry Gordon or Martyn, as they soon realised they had many things in common and enjoyed discussing a wide range of topics over the phone.
In May 2021, as the lockdown restrictions eased, they were finally introduced to each other face-to-face. Martyn and Gordon have since seen each other every week, which has only further cemented their friendship. Martyn told us, "Gordon is very sharp; he is very critical and clear thinking - for most of his life, he ran his own business, he is clever and is easy to talk to. We talk about the news, family and a lot about the sport. Gordon is a very keen follower of football, cricket and tennis - one downside is he is an Chelsea supporter, and I am an Arsenal supporter!" laughed Martyn. "He is interested in my life, and I am in his; he's done so many things...he educates me on the war and his life story."
Martyn said, "I think it's a wonderful service. Because it is volunteer led, it is of course even better, as people really want to do it. I believe AUKSG do a fantastic job at matching their volunteers to clients, and I feel it is such a vacant area in society that really needs to be filled...this is a great way to do so! If you want to make a difference, this is a tremendously satisfying way of doing so, you make a friend for free, and it's someone who really wants a friend. As a more introverted person, I found the process was also part of a challenge to myself and one that I have enjoyed; I have that space in my life to give my time to someone who really needs it," Martyn went on to say, "I know Gordon values his community and the people in it, and I'm sure one of the biggest regrets, as he is now limited to his home, is that he cannot now go out into the community, so having someone like myself as a volunteer coming in to see him helps to fill this void."
When asked if Gordon would recommend the Befriending Service to others, he said it's a good thing to do, and to anyone looking to volunteer, "they would get great satisfaction, as you do (referring to Martyn), in knowing how much I appreciate you coming.'
Gordon really benefits from the visits from Martyn, his new friend in his life. He has finally got a male friend to laugh with again; discuss different subjects of interest with, and talk things through. Martyn is someone entirely external that adds a new dimension to Gordon's life and offers a different perspective. Without the Befriending Service, Gordon wouldn't have the social connection he craved for so long and Martyn wouldn't have broadened his social circle, met someone new that he would never have known by chance if they hadn't both become a part of this service. We hope they continue to enjoy each other’s company for many more visits to come.
Would you like to become a volunteer befriender with us and help bring back that bit of extra joy into an older person’s life again? If you have an hour a week to spare for a social visit to one of our clients, we’d love to hear from you!