Loneliness service can get by
with a little help from its friends
A service that provides
companionship for isolated people now needs a few friends of its own,
says East Hampshire District Council’s Chairman.
The Age Concern Cowplain
Befriending Service has offered a way out of loneliness and isolation for
hundreds of older people around the area.
But EHDC’s Chairman, Cllr
Lynn Evans, says the service needs support from local people if it is to
Studies show that
loneliness can have as serious an impact on your health as smoking or
obesity – so being socially active is as important to your health as
being physically active.
Cllr Evans said: “There’s a
section of society that is socially isolated and this service is able to
identify those people and to help them directly.
“It is a wonderful service
that has helped so many people over the years but it is reliant on grant
funding and volunteers and desperately needs more help.”
Launched by the Horndean Older
Person Forum in 2008 the Befriending Service was expanded to include
Horndean and Clanfield in 2014.
It is aimed at older people
who have become isolated or lonely for any reason, whether through a
recent bereavement, loss of mobility or a simple loss of confidence.
‘Befrienders’ are chosen to
visit people on a weekly basis and attend local groups or societies with
them to build confidence and help them back into the community.
The service is run by Liz
Wood, Manager of Age Concern Cowplain.
She said: “It’s all about
re-engaging people with their community so they live their lives rather
than merely exist inside their own four walls.
“People can find themselves
stuck at home and that can have a serious impact on their mood. It also
means they become more likely to visit the doctors and use local health
care as they use it as a way of finding social interaction. This becomes
an extra burden on the NHS, which is fully stretched as it is.
“Our befrienders do a
fantastic job. Visiting someone, talking to them and helping them get out
can really change someone’s life. It gives them a terrific sense of
purpose and it gives the befriender a wonderful feel-good factor.”
The Befriending Service is
wholly reliant on grants and costs about £12,000 a year to run. More
money is always needed to keep the scheme going, as are more volunteer
Syliva Bewers, of
Clanfield, was referred to the scheme by Age Concern Hampshire.
She received visits from
her befriender in 2015. At the time she was stuck indoors, and isolated.
She did not know where to go to find some company.
Her befriender advised her
to join the Age Concern lunch club and came with her a few times to help
her settle in. Now, over two years later the Friday lunch club is a key
date on her social calendar!
“Now I come here I know
that people will look out for me and I feel much happier and more secure.
It’s a good way of keeping in touch with other people. Your problems
don’t seem so big when you tell other people about them.
“I always look forward to
Fridays now - it’s the highlight of my week!”
Cllr Evans said: “The
Befriending Service does a magnificent job but it always needs more help
both in terms of volunteers and funding.
“Loneliness is one of the
issues in society that we should be working on, not least because it is
one of the things we can really do something about.
“It’s a horrible situation
for people to be in and it is so unnecessary. The Befriending Service has
proved that you can successfully help people, but we really need to keep
it going and support it in any way we can.”
Media Contact: Will
Parsons, EHDC Communications Officer, 01730 234030
Photo caption: Liz Wood,
Manager of Age Concern Cowplain, Sylvia Bewer, Cllr Lynn Evans, Chairman
of East Hamphsire District Council
Download a hi-res photograph