National Friendship Day: Make a new friend with Age UK

Published: Friday 4th August 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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National Friendship Day is this Sunday. We spoke with Age UK East Riding to find out more about their fantastic Befriending Service.

Friendship Day celebrates the relationships between people. It’s a chance to express your love and appreciation for your friends and family.

Age UK East Riding strives to promote independent living for those in later life. They work closely with individuals to ensure that they are well looked after, by responding to their needs and providing a wide array of useful services.

The Befriending Service is just one of these incredible projects.

“We aim to provide friendship and support for older people throughout the East Riding of Yorkshire. This service offers a supportive, reliable, consistent relationship,” explains Alan Precious, Service Co-ordinator. “East Riding is a large rural area and there are a lot of people who, unfortunately, live by themselves.”

Age UK has estimated that there are 1,200,000 lonely older people in the country. The clever service, which pairs volunteers with isolated members of the community, aims to get the elderly out of the house and involved in local clubs and activities.

“Many people are restricted by their mobility. Often these villages don’t have a local shop, bank or post office, let alone a space where they can meet people. Transport isn’t very reliable and this puts people off venturing out,” Alan explains.

“On the other hand, there may be a nearby social club or pub, but if you’ve been living on your own for a while, you may feel a little bit out of this scene and won’t have the confidence to visit these places.”

Volunteers can commit to a simple weekly phone call, home visit, or even attend some of these social activities with their Age UK buddy. Each person involved is police checked and trained, so it’s a completely safe environment for both parties.

“We’re looking for people who are patient, understanding and looking to make a new friend,” Alan tells us. “The idea is to connect people with their communities. They’ll hopefully feel less isolated and more friendships will build up.”

Sadly, many elderly people rely on the TV for a connection to the outside world: “Age UK is trying to bring people together and develop that community spirit.”

Astoundingly, Loneliness Research has recently calculated that a lack of social connections is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day when it comes to an early death. Loneliness actually increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.

The biggest problem that Age UK faces is a lack of volunteers. There is currently a waiting list of over 50 people in the East Riding area waiting for Befrienders to come forward.

“Quite often, elderly volunteers will sign up so that they can meet someone new. Otherwise, they may have lost a relative and need something to focus on,” says Alan.

“Many people join us to get valuable work experience. It’s something to add to their CV and can allow them to decide whether they want to pursue a career in social care.”

Once you express your interest, you will be matched up and the elderly client will now have a reliable person to trust and talk to.

“We’re all living to an older age,” Alan points out, “and it’s important that we don’t spend the later years of our lives feeling lonely and isolated.”

You can find out more about The Befriending Service on the Age UK website.

Meanwhile, students of the University of Hull can get involved through Hull University Union.

Enjoy more Hull and East Yorkshire news on HEY Today

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Published: Friday 4th August 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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