Meet Carol from South Yorkshire who receives support from her local Good Neighbours companionship service. She tells us why the Winter months can be hard and why her volunteer brightens her day.
“I have had help from Royal Voluntary Service for over a year now and it has made an immense difference to my life. I had asked for help from other organisations and was either told that the services had stopped or received no reply. For an older person who lives alone and with illness, this was really not good.
“Just by chance, I came across my local services details and left a message. Much to my surprise, I got a call back very soon after from a very special, lovely bubbly lady who took my details and explained about what the organisation did.
“The same lady became a huge support to me by visiting once a week and helping me by becoming my friend, advising me and helping me with my weekly shop. I really look forward to her visists which always brighten me up. My volunteer is very caring, understanding, chatty and fun; a lifeline to someone who does not always see a lot of other people.
“The service is excellent and I would be lost without it. It means a great deal to me and lots of others. I would definitely recommend it to others.
“In the Winter months, I get more depressed and my pain increases with the cold, wet climate, as it does for many people. I find December particularly depressing when it’s dark at 4pm. One feels more isolated and alone.
“People are busy with family plans or preparations and have less time to chat. It seems rubbish if you are on your own at Christmas; even the TV adverts have people gathered together or around a large table. People rush in from the cold so you see even less of others than normal. Getting around is also more difficult.
“I think if you’re on your own you are more vulnerable and feel less safe in a lot of situations today and even more so in Winter months when there are fewer people about. The evenings and nights seem darker somehow.
“The best thing about my volunteer and local service is that you have that friendship, support and kindness. It makes you feel more included in society. My faith in humanity has been restored.”
Royal Voluntary Service is part of the Met Office’s Get ready for Winter campaign. Read volunteer David's blog about what we can do to make winter a less lonely time for older people. Our network of volunteers help vulnerable older people like Carol to stay independent and connected throughout the year.
After recovering from a heart attack, Ian was ready to go home but his wife doesn’t drive and he wasn’t well enough to use public transport. He arranged a lift with the Royal Voluntary Service and got chatting to the volunteer driver from our transport scheme in Fife, one of many services across Great Britain which has benefitted from funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
“I remember talking to the driver and thinking it must be nice to volunteer if you have time. I thought about it a bit more and then gave my local office a ring. I went down and had a chat; I went through all of the checks and then I started volunteering as part of the transport service. I signed up to be a driver. I’ve been a volunteer at Central and West Fife Transport Service for nearly three years now.”
The number of hours Ian spends volunteering vary from week to week, he often drives people to the shops, to hospital appointments or sometimes just to help them get out and above.
“The people I drive know me; I’ve built a relationship with them and sometimes they can be reluctant about meeting new people. I recently went to visit my Mum in Worcestershire for a week and the office had to arrange cover for me. I felt bad that I was letting people down and missing my regular shifts.”
One of Ian’s regulars is Joe Reid, a 73-year-old who started using the transport service nearly a year ago. Ian spends a couple of hours every week with Joe and the schedule rarely varies.
“Ian picks me up at 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon. We do my errands and then we go to the supermarket to do my weekly shop. My mobility isn’t good and Ian gets the electric trolley for me and helps me put all the shopping in. He knows what I want and always asks me for a list but I never bother. He keeps me right.”
Ian and Joe have become firm friends over the past year, and knowing that Joe would be on his own over Christmas, Ian invited him to sample some of his cooking.
“I really enjoy Joe’s company. He came and spent Christmas with us; he’s like one of the family now. He had a snooze in the armchair!”
Volunteering has made a big difference to Ian’s life.
“I have a deeper appreciation of older people and their problems now. It’s difficult for people to get from A to B, especially if they’re like Joe and have mobility problems or they live in a rural area. It’s really important to offer a service like the transport service.
“Volunteering has definitely made my life more interesting too I feel quite privileged that I am trusted to help, I think the Royal Voluntary Service badge shows that I’m trusted and respected and I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”
“Knowing that Ian is coming over puts my mind at ease. I know that he’ll help me and make sure I do everything I need to do. Before when I used to ask a neighbour, I was always wondering if they’d have time but I know now that Ian will keep me right.”
Find out more about volunteering in your area or make a donation to beat loneliness in older people.