'Lifeline' Phone Support Offered for Isolated Older People

Age UK Ealing's befriending service proving invaluable during lockdown

llr Support is vital for older people during lockdown

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Older people in the borough of Ealing left isolated during the pandemic are being offered a ‘lifeline’ – through a befriending service run by a west London charity.

The telephone support service provided by Age UK Ealing sees volunteers and staff call older people up to three times a week, checking on their welfare, offering advice and support and a friendly voice on the end of the line.

When Covid restrictions are eased, the charity will resume offering in-person visits for a cup of tea and a chat, help around the house or trips out for shopping or visits to attractions such as museums.

The scheme is made possible thanks to a £145,000 three-year grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

Age UK Ealing Chief Executive Reginald Parkinson said, “Even before Covid, loneliness was a big issue for many of the older people we work with, and that’s only been exacerbated by the fact so many options for social interaction have been closed off during the pandemic.

“Having this support available is transformational – it gives older people a lot of reassurance to know there’s someone on the end of the phone they can talk to, and the prospect of meeting up after the lockdown gives them hope and something to look forward to.

“Our volunteers get as much out of it as the older people they support – it’s rewarding for them to be able to help someone else, and above all they get the benefit of a real and lasting friendship with someone who in other circumstances they probably would never have crossed paths with.”

Age UK Ealing says the service has proven invaluable during the Covid crisis, including during the first lockdown when volunteers were able to ensure older people had enough food and other provisions to get them through the week.

81-year-old Anna Weber, 81, from Greenford, used to travel regularly and enjoy holidays abroad with her husband, but has suffered from loneliness since he died two years ago.

She said, “Before coronavirus I was very independent and used to go to Ealing Broadway all the time on the bus. I’ve had a few falls in recent years which have taken away a lot of my independence and made me feel depressed.

“Since last year I’ve had a befriender who calls me every week. She’s always interested in me, makes me feel good about myself, and has been there for me when I’ve needed help. I love the service and really appreciate everything the staff and volunteers at Age UK Ealing do for me.”

96-year-old Charlie Hatfield, also from Greenford, enjoys his visits and phone calls from a befriender. He said, “I’m on my own here and I get a bit bored, so having someone come around just helps to break up the day – otherwise I’d just be sitting here looking at these four walls. They come for a couple of hours one day a week and sometimes they help me in the garden or just with little things like sewing on a button.

“At the moment because of Covid we can only talk on the phone but we still have a good old natter and talk about all kinds of things. I’d recommend it to anyone – it’s a good thing and it breaks up the boredom and gives you something to look forward to.”

Age UK Ealing service user Charlie Hatfield, 96, from GreenfordAge UK Ealing service user Charlie Hatfield, 96, from Greenford

Victoria Manning, 47, from South Ealing, has been a volunteer telephone befriender for Age UK Ealing for four years.

She said, “I absolutely love the weekly telephone calls to my friends. As well as having a chat and a laugh, I get to hear some remarkable stories and life experiences.

“I’m also there to listen if anyone is going through a tough time, because it’s good to share the burden with a sympathetic ear. I fund volunteering for Age UK extremely rewarding and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in improving the lives of older people.”

Age UK volunteer Victoria Manning, 47, from South Ealing
Age UK volunteer Victoria Manning, 47, from South Ealing

City of London Corporation City Bridge Trust Committee Chairman Dhruv Patel said, “For many of us, losing access to social activities and interaction with other people has been one of the hardest things about the pandemic, and it’s been even more difficult for many older people living on their own.

“The service being offered by Age UK Ealing offers a real lifeline to older people, allowing them to enjoy the boost to their physical and mental wellbeing which comes from regular contact with other human beings.”

More information is at www.ageuk.org.uk/ealing while anyone interested in volunteering to befriend an older person is asked to email volunteer.co-ordinator@ageukealing.org.uk or call 0208 578 2712.

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

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April 1, 2021