Finding Friendship with Age Concern

With the increase in loneliness appearing to be an ongoing concern during the 21st century, we are committed to supporting the elderly community. Befriending is our way to support those in later years who have found themselves feeling isolated sometimes due to situations beyond their control. Our befriending team has risen from 26 to 51 volunteers in the space of 6 months and our team is expanding rapidly. We also hope to help many more clients beyond Colchester by branching out into the rural areas of Essex where we know some people are stuck indoors without speaking to anyone from one day to the next. My job is to identify those in the community who best need our help. We have 66 people who are being befriended in the home and this number is increasing every week.

Life’s later years are particularly problematic for many in our community like from bereavement after a spouse has passed away or for those with children living too far away to visit regularly. Having a befriender to share interests provides engagement and with support from a friend, they will feel more positive about themselves through companionship.

Regular human interaction is a well-defined need and as one of the five ways to wellbeing it is essential for good mental and physical health.

Loneliness can happen to anyone and circumstances differ from person to person. Even with a group of people there is truth that one can still feel just as lonely. For some it does mean getting out less. During the winter months, this can be especially traumatic for those who are house bound where there is human contact. However, some of our residents admit they are too proud to ask for help seeing it as a way of admitting weakness. Others have described to us about being convinced they are undeserving.

The antidote to loneliness is companionship. Befriending changes people’s lives and each relationship often brings a sense of belonging only friendship can bring – a feeling of being cherished and wanted. Many of the connections are between two people who have compatible hobbies in common and shared experiences. A successful match may change lives through a relationship highly valued by both befriended and befriended equally. 

All of our befriending volunteers are kind hearted people who through commitment have empowered the most vulnerable to go out and do things they wouldn’t normally do alone.

As a result of our befriending service we have been able to improve the lives of many of the older residents around the Colchester community.

Rhona: “I enjoy bringing the outside world to Wilga’s doorstep. We often discuss current affairs, go through the newspaper and talk about what we both had for dinner the previous evening.” 

Mrs Flo: ”Since having a befriender I am much more inclined to have a coffee with the other residents, also joining them with fish and chips on Friday. I am now able to walk to the local shop and have a laugh with the shopkeeper which has motivated me to do more exercise.” 

Joe: “I am now much more content with my life feeling more valued from companionship with someone who cares.”

Mr Diamond: “We get on so easily & can talk about anything without fear of embarrassment. I appreciate being listened to & understood.” 

To see what opportunities for befriending there are across NE Essex cross over to our ‘volunteer opportunities’ web page: https://www.ageconcerncolchester.org.uk/how-you-can-help/volunteer-opportunities/