I just met a girl called Maria.....
Well... she is not technically a girl. She is 90. And I have not just met her. I have been visiting her for 6 months. What are you on about LandGirl, I hear you cry? Well. I shall mostly be telling you about it now. Here it comes.... ready?
Back in September I got to thinking that I would quite like to do some volunteering for Age UK. The thought process was simple for me. I wanted to try to give something back to the generation that I so admire. I emulate, albeit sometimes to a feeble degree, the women of the WW2 era and I know from the statistics that abound, that some are living alone and are painfully isolated.
A friend of mine was chatting one day about someone in her office who is a “befriender” for the charity and said that she thought it would be right up my street. I like to chat. I like tea. I like cake. Match made in heaven.
A quick search on the wonderweb lead me to ring my local Age UK office and it all went from there. I had to attend an interview taking along some of my personal particulars, such as passport or drivers license. The “interview” , I was told, would consist of no more than a 20 minute chinwag, so that a representative of the charity could get to know me a bit more and consider if a) I was suitable for the task and b) who to place me with when the time came.
40 minutes later (ahem,) I was off out the door and awaiting the results of my CRB police check. Despite having one recently for something else, I was told that I would need to have another one. Free of charge. Not a problem. There was a wait involved, which was a little longer than I would have liked, coming in at just under 8 weeks. I was keen to get a placement before the notoriously lonely time of Christmas & New Year hit, but that was not to be. Alas.
But - come mid January, I was called with the details of Maria. A recently bereaved and slightly depressed local lady. I arranged to meet her at her home, accompanied by an Age UK Representative. I had been warned that, during the first meeting, Maria might not actually talk to me very much, but instead direct her conversation towards the Representative. Which is exactly what happened. I was then left to arrange the next visit with Maria. This has become a weekly visit on a Saturday morning. I would have preferred weekday evenings, but a lot of elderly people prefer day meetings, which is understandable.
The meetings have progressed from being slightly awkward at first, as getting to know someone can sometimes be, into what I feel is an actual friendship. I talk about what I have been up to, she talks about her past. I advise her on how I think she could improve how she spends her time through various activities such as U3A, she listens and occasionally agrees with or dismisses my suggestions, depending on her mood.
But she is showing more interest in life in general as her bereavement becomes less and she adjusts to life on her own. Due to her depression, there have been tearful, silent moments during my visits, but I handle them as I would do any other friend. I listen. I try to comfort.
I have recently met members of her extended family who have told me that my visits do Maria the world of good. That they really give her a lift and that she looks forward to seeing me. Which is all I could ever hope for. For an hour a week, sometimes a little over, I feel that it is not much to give out of my time. In fact, it is hardly anything at all. I am happy to pay by way of my usual Saturday morning lay in to be able to give something back.
My only reservation is that I cannot spend more time with Maria. I would dearly love to be able to see her in the week, perhaps go along with her to a bridge game, or just simply sit and watch TV. But due to working full time, this is not a possibility. I give what I can, and it seems to be ample for her needs.
If you think you could do the same or could help the charity in other ways, have a look on line. Perhaps it is something you would like to get involved in?
Age UK is the umbrella term for the combination of Age Concern and Help the Aged. If you have no luck finding contact details that can help you, then it might be worth giving your local charity shop a call to see if they can point you in the right direction. But try direct contact with an office first.
Honestly? It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Let me know if this inspires you to get involved with the elderly community, or if you already are? I would love to hear of your experiences.
Thanks for stopping by!