Sadly, as we age, life can become progressively difficult and socially isolating, with over one million older people reporting to be often or always lonely.
We are very aware of the issues affecting older people and want to make a positive difference to their lives - helping them stay active and build social connections. Since 2016, we have been supporting the great work of national volunteering charity, Royal Voluntary Service and raising money to help fund its North Somerset Community Companions service (formerly Good Neighbours).
Community Companions can make all the difference to an older person – with volunteers providing valuable company and friendship as well as ensuring they stay safe and well. Royal Voluntary Service volunteers spend around an hour each week, either in person or over the phone, in the company of an older person to help them remain independent and engaged with their community.
Iris Leach is 93 and lives in Clevedon. As she got older she began to lose touch with her friends, stopped being able get out by herself and found she had very little to look forward to. Iris was introduced to Royal Voluntary Service’s Community Companions service in March 2016 and was matched with local volunteer, Bev Gordon. Since then her life has been much improved.
Bev and Mrs Leach
Iris tells us: “Bev visits me weekly in my own home for a chat to help pass my day. Sometimes she also takes me to the local shops where we share a cake and a cup of coffee. It’s just so nice to sit and chat with someone.”
“I get on very well with Bev and we have a very easy, natural relationship. Our time together passes too quickly at times but I always look forward to her next visit.”
Bev Gordon is 53 and also lives in Clevedon. She decided to become a Community Companions volunteer so she could help combat loneliness amongst older people in her area. The two ladies have built up a strong bond over the last 18 months.
Bev commented: “Iris may be 40 years older than me, but when we are together the years melt away. We are just two women enjoying a cup of tea and a chat, putting the world to rights. She is fiercely independent.”
I try to take Iris out even if it's just to a cafe for tea and cake. The local residential home puts on charity fundraising cream tea events and we both enjoy these.
“Iris is also happy to be flexible about the visits so it fits in perfectly with my work and family life.”
But the benefits are two-fold. Sharing time can improve life not just for the older person but also the volunteer. As well as being rewarding, inspiring and good for you at any age, volunteering can help people feel valued, involved in the community and can have significant well-being benefits.
Bev continues: “I volunteered hoping to make a difference to an elderly person. I feel that I do, but I also get a lot from it myself.”
If you are interested in volunteering for Community Companions in North Somerset, or know someone that could benefit from the service please contact: Sharon Donkin, Service Manager, Royal Voluntary Service North Somerset: Sharon.Donkin@royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk or visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk