Befriending – Providing Friendship To An Older Person In Your Community

Hi I’m Dee and I am Grace’s younger sister. I retired a few years ago and, although I’ve really enjoyed spending quality time lunching with friends, holidaying with my husband and playing with my gorgeous grandchildren, I felt that I wanted to do something else in my latter years that would be helpful to someone in my local community. After a quick assessment of my abilities, I scoured various websites for volunteering jobs. Once I had decided that I would like to offer companionship to an older person who is living on their own, I went straight to the Age UK website for information.

Befriending

Befriending fitted the bill perfectly for me. This was what I wanted to do. It only takes an hour of your time each week to either visit an older person or you can call them on the telephone. I chose to make weekly visits.

After I completed an online application form, I was contacted immediately by my local organiser to arrange a visit to my home for a recruitment and matching meeting. At the meeting, which was very informal, I shared my background and completed a ‘disclosure and barring check’ form to ensure that I was a suitable person.

Next, I attended a one-day course for newly recruited befriending volunteers which was extremely helpful. I felt very valued by the Age UK trainers.

Befriending

They quickly matched me with a lady in her 80’s who lives on her own in a town near to my home. I was really excited! The local organiser accompanied me on my first visit. We were introduced and, as we sat talking together, I knew that we were a great match. We had so much in common!

I was told that she has been diagnosed with early signs of dementia and this has sadly impaired her memory. Although this could have been daunting to me as a befriender, I visited the Dementia UK website and found some really useful information that has helped me – www.dementiauk.org/

During my visits, I have learned that I just need to be patient and a good listener. She can repeat things many times but I just respond with a smile as if it is the first time that she has told me.

I recently arrived to find that she was dressed in heavy winter clothing during the hot spell of weather. I suggested that she changed into something cooler. Whilst we were looking in her wardrobe for a blouse, we found a beautiful silk shawl. She then remembered where she had bought it and this triggered happy memories of her holiday in India with her husband. I have found that simple tasks around the home have often lead to valuable and enjoyable discussions about her childhood and adult life.

What we do during my visits can vary – we have tea and cake, eat lunch together, look at photo albums, listen to music, go for short walks, visit the local garden centre. I’ve also taken her to her hairdressing appointments. My visits tend to last longer than an hour but that is my choice. Most importantly, we have fun and we value each oth

I have been befriending now for 6 months and really look forward to my visits. She is such a lovely lady with a wicked sense of humour! I now feel that we are friends and I have met her family. She has told me that she really enjoys my company too and wishes that I could visit more often.

I have found my niche and it is humbling to know that I am making such a difference to someone’s life.

BefriendingBenefits of befriending
Did you know that nearly half of all people aged 75 and over live alone? Age UK offers two different types of befriending services:

Face-to-face befriending where a volunteer befriender visits an older person in their home, perhaps for a cup of tea and a chat, or accompanies them to an activity (such as a trip to a café or the theatre). In some cases, a volunteer may accompany the older person to occasional hospital or doctor’s appointments.

Telephone befriending where a volunteer befriender will phone an older person at an agreed time for a chat

What you will get out of it

  • It’s a direct way to make a difference to someone’s life
  • You get to support a great cause, while giving something back to your community
  • You get to be part of a wider, friendly team.
  • Volunteers tell us it’s fun, and you might make a new friend
  • Agreed expenses

If you want to become a befriender, you can find more information on the Age UK website.

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1 Comment

  1. This is a great article. People don’t realise how lonely people can be, particularly older people. I recently cared for both my parents for 5 months until they died, and during this time realised how important even fleeting conversations were to them – the milkman, the postman, the library van etc – because otherwise….silence. They had each other and thankfully died within 10 days of each other. But even just that 10 days when my mother was ‘alone’ (I worked each morning upstairs), it was to her like waking up at her own private party to which no-one bothered to turn up – day after day. I was so grateful to be there. And so aware that next door, down the street, over the road – wherever – there are old people alone and lonely. An hour a week is nothing – we can all spare an hour; they ask for so little and it is, genuinely, interesting and rewarding.

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