“The high street looks like 6am on a Sunday morning… I never see a soul. I won’t pretend it’s not difficult.”
These are the words of 78-year-old *Patrick who’s widowed and lives alone. More tragically still, Patrick was lonely long before the lockdown came into force.
As we approach the second month of self-isolation, human connections have never felt so crucial. But thousands of older people across Yorkshire, many of whom were already struggling with loneliness, are now trapped in their homes with little contact or none at all.
At Re-engage (formerly Contact the Elderly), we’ve been supporting the over-75s for over 50 years. Our local tea parties, which take place on Sundays across the UK, are a wonderful way to bring this age group together with their peers and volunteers of all ages, establishing bonds of friendship and a sense of belonging.
Sadly, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, we’ve been forced to put these much-loved gatherings on hold. Instead, we’ve set up Call Companions, a new telephone befriending service, to provide support and friendship to those at further risk of isolation during the pandemic.
As our development officer for Yorkshire, Deb Meynell says:
“We know that self-isolation can be extremely challenging for many older people who live alone. A good chat with your call companion really can make all the difference, lifting your spirits and helping you feel more yourself again. Anyone aged 75+ and feeling alone in these strange times should get in touch.”
Like many of us, *Mary, 89, is finding the crisis incredibly unsettling. Now widowed, the former nurse feels hugely grateful for her call companion. She says, “Now I only watch the news twice a day, otherwise it’s all you ever think about… It’s a real comfort to have someone to chat to.”
In fact, our call companions are proving such a help to those who might otherwise have little contact, we’re planning to continue the service for as long as it’s needed.
After all, if we’ve all learnt anything from this crisis, it’s that human bonds really do mean the world.
If you’re over 75 and would like a call companion or know someone who might benefit, call 0800 716543 or visit www.reengage.org.uk
This post is based on a press release issued by Re-engage
*Names have been changed