What we want to do
The demand for our service, befriending older people to combat their loneliness, continues to grow. Unable to meet this growing need with our traditional one-to-one befriending scheme, we would like to set up 'Friendship Groups'. These would link approx. 4 older people to 2 volunteers in a group setting either at home or in cafes. We will help the group to bond, or make changes as needed. Our hope is the groups will eventually be more adventurous - go on day trips and outings. We will also involve volunteers who may themselves want to broaden their social circle and thus improving the lives of everyone.
Costings to run 8 groups for 6 months
Co-ordinator - 5 hours per week @£12.50 per hour £1,500
Management and supervision - 1 hour per week @£15 £360
Expenses including refreshments - £30 per group, first event £ 240
Volunteer training - 2 hours @£15 to develop material, 2 sessions @£100 to cover delivery plus expenses including refreshments and travel costs £ 250
Office costs including printing and telephone £200
TOTAL NEEDED £2,550
Why we want to do it
Chronic loneliness is a serious issue. It’s not just a painful emotional experience, it’s proven to be harmful to physical health. Studies have shown that loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Mental health can also be affected by loneliness leading to cognitive decline, increased risk of dementia, depression, anxiety and even the risk of suicide.
Current projections show Wokingham Borough will have almost 31,000 residents over 65 in 2020, and that over a third (11,000) of them will be living alone.
The Link has been confronting the problem of loneliness and isolation amongst older people for the last 21 years. We are confident we know how to identify the core issues at the earliest stages and tackle them.
We firmly believe our one-to-one befriending approach is the most effective way of alleviating social isolation - but we can see that the number of elderly people who will need the service is growing much more rapidly than the rate at which we can recruit volunteers. We also recognise that the one-to-one approach doesn’t necessarily lead to social integration within the wider community. We see this being achieved through the Friendship Groups we want to establish and through the expansion of community activities we already run.
The story of Toni and Muriel
Three years ago, we matched volunteer Toni with 92-year-old Muriel. "My Link friend lives locally and I think she’s amazing! We have such a laugh and a good chat. When I’m her age I hope I’m as fantastic as her!"
Muriel was referred to the Link because she struggles with feeling lonely. Her limited mobility means it’s difficult for her to get out to the shops or even for short walks.
For Toni, losing her grandparents many years ago means that she misses spending time with the elderly. But her new friendship has been a way to reconnect with someone from a different generation.
“It’s been great getting to know someone new, who is bursting with life experiences - many more than me. I find it fascinating to learn about life before I even existed.
“It's the satisfaction of seeing their face light up when you arrive. Muriel is so pleased to see me, just to be there to offer company. I have the chance to take her out from the nursing home, to pop to the shops or even just to help with little practical things that she can't manage herself - it's great.
“The Link is very friendly, and I get the sense that it is very well run. I like the fact that it's a small, local charity which values my support, rather than a big nationwide organisation.”
The number of people like Muriel who need befriending is growing all the time. By creating Friendship Groups we believe we can respond to this need more quickly and hopefully establish more mutually beneficial long term friendships like the one that has developed between Muriel and Toni.
By supporting our application for funding for Friendship Groups you will make a significant difference to the lives of lonely elderly people. Something as simple as a chat and a cuppa can be the highlight of an elderly person's week and The Link already has the experience to make this a success.