Over the last 20 years, the number of people over 75 who live alone has gone up to 2.2m.
All too often, loneliness is the reality for older people with nearly half of older people saying the TV is their main source of company.
Re-engage, a charity we have recently partnered with tackle this problem head-on. They provide social connections for older people at a time in their lives when their social circles are diminishing. Pre- pandemic they would organise regular social gatherings across the UK, supported by 14,000 volunteers. In response to the changing environment, they have created a new telephone befriending service for older people called Call Companions.
Axis’ Kellie White, Client Liaison Officer decided to join the programme 4 weeks ago. We managed to speak to her to find her experience with the Call Companions programme and why she decided to do it.
Interviewer: Hi Kellie, thanks for speaking to us today. So how did you first hear about the Call Companions programme and had you done anything like this in the past?
Kellie: I saw it on the volunteering channel in Teams, I often have a look through to see if anything interests me and this one really caught my attention. It made me think of the connections I have, my son, partner and friends and how at times you can still feel isolated when you have people around you. It made me think how lonely it can get if you have no one, especially during Covid. I wanted to give back so decided to take part. I had never done anything like this before, so it was a challenge I wanted to give myself.
Interviewer: And how long have you been doing it now?
Kellie: Well, officially I have been doing it for 4 weeks now with the commitment to carry on doing it for a year.
Interviewer: What was the process like to join and how did they pair you up with someone?
Kellie: At first, they do various checks, including police checks, you then go through an interview process where they get to know you and your interests to partner you up with someone who is best suited to you. They then review and let you know if you have been selected within 4 weeks. I got matched with a lovely lady called Sue.
Interviewer: How would you say the experience has gone so far?
Kellie: It’s been really good! I took over from another listener who had her while she was at her lowest. While I’ve been speaking to her, she has been quite positive, it’s nice talking to her and gives me something to look forward to. At one point Sue told me “I’m looking forward to speaking to you again next week” which really brought it home. It confirmed that what I’m doing is worthwhile, giving Sue some structure in her life that she enjoys and allowing her to have that much needed social interaction with someone.
Interviewer: What kind of things do you talk about?
Kellie: It could be anything really, the sessions last around 45 minutes. I usually ask about things that are happening in her life or about her past. I have written down some talking points, but the conversation usually flows naturally, especially the more I get to know her.
Interviewer: And how does it make you feel after? It must be quite a rewarding experience.
Kellie: It always makes me feel good after, knowing I have made a difference to someone’s life in a positive way. Covid pulled me away from my mum, even though she has people to talk to she still felt quite lonely at times, so I can imagine how lonely Sue must have been during the pandemic.
Interviewer: What would you say to anyone thinking about taking part in the Call Companions programme?
Kellie: I would say first of all think long and hard about the commitment, the reward is definitely worth it, you can’t beat the joy it gives you to give something back. It’s something a bit longer term and personal, you really get to know the person after a few sessions. If anyone has any questions, they can contact me directly.
Interviewer: Thank you so much Kellie for sharing your experiences, it sounds like both you and Sue are benefitting from it. Thanks again!