Befriending service expands to meet high demand

When you are alone in the world, who do you turn to?

Beryl Bailey, 87, says she has a nice little life but does not meet other people like herself
Beryl Bailey, 87, says she has a nice little life but does not meet other people like herself

Loneliness is a growing problem which the charity Time to Talk Befriending is trying to tackle.

The inter-generational scheme carefully matches volunteers with people who feel socially isolated and visits are organised weekly or fortnightly.

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The charity is based in Brighton and Hove but the demand west of the city has been such that it began branching out to Adur and Worthing three months ago.

More volunteers in this area are now sought to meet the high demand from people aged over 65.

One of the first to benefit from the expansion was 87-year-old Beryl Bailey, of Monks Court, North Road, Lancing.

She said: “They were very clever for matching me up with just the perfect person. She comes once a fortnight. She is a delight.

“She shares my interests in books and art. I am very lucky to have found her. It is nice to meet people on your wavelength.”

Beryl, who has been in Lancing for 17 years, was a writer and taught at a boys’ school in Croydon.

She never married and did not want children. She was engaged to a man called Rod but he died from prostate cancer two years ago.

“He was a joy to talk to. He was alone in the world as I am,” she said.

“I have a nice little life but I don’t meet other people like myself. Rod was a find. That is luck. One person can keep you amused and happy.

“I am all alone in the world. Something I feel very strongly about is if over-80s are on their own, social services should come and visit.

“I think there should be a special group for people who are all alone in the world, who literally have no-one else to turn to. I think it is a growing problem.”

Beryl said the charity should be praised for the good work it is doing but said it needed more helpers of the right character.

The relationship can work well for the volunteers, as stay-at-home mum Lucy Jackson has found.

She offered to help the charity because she wanted to teach her son the importance of caring for other people and thinking about other people’s needs.

Lucy said: “I chose the befriending service because I thought this was something that we could do together and I hoped that the person that we got paired with would be able to enjoy my son as much as we all do.

“We have been visiting a 94-year-old lady for three months or so now and it really couldn’t have worked out better. She is such a lovely lady, so full of life and laughter.

“My son and her have formed a lovely relationship and she and I find new things that we have in common at every visit. We meet once a week and usually go to the park where Sam can play and we can all chat.”

Lucy also has a six-year-old son, who joins them on the visits in the school holidays.

“He loves to hear all her stories from her time in the war and how different life was back then,” she said.

“She teaches my son things that he wouldn’t find in a book or on the internet, its a lovely way of learning for him.

“Because of her age, she has lost most of her friends and family and I know she finds the loneliness hard. She tells me that our visits help her a lot and give her something to look forward to each week.

“The befriending service is vital to elderly people who are suffering from loneliness and isolation. I hate to think of how many other elderly people there are that are facing another day today with no one to talk to and very little to look forward to.

“Volunteering has been a really positive experience for us and I would recommend it to anyone.”

Time to Talk Befriending aims to help improve the wellbeing of older people who feel chronically lonely and socially isolated.

Hannah Hammond, volunteers co-ordinator, said: “Over the last three years, we have been try to tackle the demand and reduce loneliness with the over-65s and we have been achieving this by carefully matching volunteers who can visit on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

“The aim is to develop a lasting and supportive relationship with the older person, which in turn will hopefully be a hugely positive experience for the volunteer as well as the person they are helping.

“Since the charity has been founded we have developed strong relationships with local services and built strong partnerships with local authorities such as Sussex Police. We are involved in a lot of research and we also hold a lot of local inter-generational events.

“In April, we branched into Worthing and Adur as we found there is a huge need in this area for our services. The demand is very high so we are in need of volunteers in Worthing and Adur.”

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