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Two women sitting on a bench, one elderly and one younger, looking at a phone

Cost of living: Befriending service

Part-funded by Ealing Council, Age UK Ealing provides a befriending service to older people who are isolated and struggling with loneliness.

“It’s fulfilling. I learn lots of new things and it’s great to make a difference to someone’s life,” says Lorraine, one of the volunteers delivering the service.

Lorraine’s been a telephone befriender for two years and was motivated to volunteer during the lockdown when she realised how isolated some older people were.

‘I get to learn so much’

“We talk about all sorts of things and I get to learn so much about them, their family and their lives. It can be a bit of a challenge like any social setting, to find things in common to talk about – we talk about hobbies, reminisce about past times, families. I’ve learned a lot about gardening, for instance!

“Or we might discuss their favourite TV programme, which I might then watch and we chat about it the following week. Or I ask about what they’ve been up to over the past few days, or the next few days, and that gives plenty to talk about.”

“During the pandemic I realised just how isolated some older people were,” Lorraine continued, “so I thought it would be a good thing to do in the community by helping out. I wasn’t working at the time, and I thought it would be good to give that time – I’ve always wanted to volunteer and it was the right time to do it.

“It’s a two-way relationship which I also get enjoyment out of, I feel like I’ve made new friends as well.”

‘Hugely important service’

“Our telephone support service is a hugely important service for socially isolated and housebound older people,” says Siobhan Thompson from Age UK Ealing.

“Before starting the service everyone receives a detailed assessment and a home visit.  As well as the benefits of social interaction the volunteer will be ensuring that everything is in place for the person. For example we work to provide support resolving practical problems that may arise such as issues with care packages,” she continued.

‘Thank you’

Councillor Jasbir Anand, cabinet member for thriving communities, said: “Covid really highlighted how we pull together to help each other during the toughest of times.  Now with the cost of living spiralling and the anxiety and social isolation that comes along with that, the telephone befriending service is a shining example of how we can continue to support each other.

“I’d like to say thank you very much to all the volunteers who help make it happen, and also to our older residents who take part.”

To access the service yourself, or refer a friend or relative, contact Age UK Ealing on 020 8578 2712, and select option 2 or visit their website

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