Friday, 24 June 2011

Tales of an Age UK Befriender


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!



23 comments:

  1. This is so inspirational! The elderly get so lonely and they so look forward to visits! They have so many stories to tell and such little time to tell them.

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  2. If I were not tearing between two addresses all the time I would like to do this, perhaps when I am more settled. Good on you. x

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  3. How amazing you are to do that. I would love to feel more settled, so as to be able to do something like this. xx

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  4. This kind of brought a little tear to my eye. i have always wanted to do something like this. I would love to do something with my dog, animal thearpy i think its called. Its been proven that animals lift spirits or people.

    you have inspired me to get off my butt and do it!

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  5. I sit hear in total admiration of you for doing this (its something I have always felt to shy to do) it is a truly wonderflly generous way to spend your free time! Your Amazing!

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  6. That's a wonderful thing to do Land Girl, especially considering the commitment. I take my hat off to you!

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  7. Good on you, this is a brilliant thing to do and I can see it is rewarding for both sides. I do feel for elderly people who are left alone and I bet she really looks forward to your visits.

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  8. Great post, well done you! I was always sent off by my mum to visit elderly neighbours when I was younger, but did end up enjoying spending time with them. And my Gran is far away up North, but loves a chat on the phone, I must ring her more. At the moment I am volunteering more with the young as I'm on the PTA, and help run a playgroup for 3 hours on a Thursday morning.

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  9. Well done you!! Depression/chronic loneliness is such a frequent issue for the elderly, and often overlooked (perhaps because the powers that be won't get any more work/more tax out of them either way); I'm genuinely so glad that Maria has found you and you her. :) Having someone to talk with makes all the difference.

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  10. What a fantastic thing to do, I take my hat off to you.
    My mother works for Age Concern and I love going along with her to things now. I hated the idea at first (sulky teenager etc) but I soon found a lot of the pensioners were ace and some had such wicked/filthy senses of humour I have been in stitches and quite shocked in equal measures! Like you I struggle to go to much these days because I work full time and most events are in the week. Mum still introduces me as her 'littlest' or 'baby' which always makes me chuckle.

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  11. That's so lovely, I would love to do that too, maybe in a few months when my baby is settled at night, I talk to my mums 92 ur old neighbour all the time the other day she asked me in, her bungalow is as it was in the 1930s - it is pure heaven, Lloyd loom, utility furniture, flowery paintings, pale blue Johnson brothers china, she told me shes down to her last four plates, the others broken overr the years! kitchen maid and enamel table! I didn't want to leave!
    Love your blog! fliss xxx

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  12. What a wonderful thing to do.

    I work with 300+ volunteers, most of whom are retired. I think they're probably on the more sprightly side of things as they come out to us once a week, but I know a lot of them are widowed now and this is probably their main time to chat to people. They're an amazing bunch. I'm constantly surprised by their life experiences and the tales they tell.

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  13. You inspired me to have a google for similar programs in my neck of the woods, and I found one for visitors with pets. They're looking for people with dogs, but I have a very placid fluffy cat who's quite comfortable travelling and seduces everyone she meets, and surely there's a lonely cat-person out there who'd like a furry visitor? I'm going to give them a ring on Monday. Thanks!

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  14. you have made me a little tearful. What a great thing for you to do, though i am sure you get lots back from seeing Maria too. I may have a look to see if i can fit something in. x

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  15. wow what an amazing thing to do, I admire you for getting off your butt and doing it, it seems many of us would like to but haven't done anything about it!

    I tried to volunteer at the local intensive care unit at our local hospital, having been through a situation where OH was in intensive care for a long time I thought I could help other relatives in a similar situation as I understand what it's like, sadly they are just not interested :o(

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  16. I've actually been thinking about doing this for a while, thanks for the insight! :)

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  17. Amazing. Have considered doing this but never taken action. Hearing about your experiences directly I now feel ready to approach the opportunity with confidence. Thank you x

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  18. Dear All... thank you SO much for taking the time to read this and potentially act on it! I am thrilled that so many of you are now considering/acting upon doing something similar! It warms the cockles so it does!!!

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  19. That is so sweet.This post made me cry.I used to work in a nursing home when I lived in Virginia doing hair and some are just left alone and are sad and some were so fun.I think what you are doing is wonderful and more people should this.I don't work much so doing this again would probably do me some good too.xx

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  20. Good for you. What an awesome way to spend your time. Pat yourself on the back lovely lady. You are wonderful.

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  21. Bless you lovely you are so amaze balls! xx

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  22. Your such a precious soul amor.
    I think its sad how they treat the elderly.
    We Mexicans keep our granparents at home and take care of them ourselves.

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I'd love to hear what you think so feel free to comment away!

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