Imagine opening your door on your 90th birthday and having nobody there to wish you a happy birthday. Thankfully, 90 year old Harriet has a different story to share with us…
It is not a secret that isolation and loneliness is a problem many older people experience. Dedicated to help older people, Friends of the Elderly have launched a campaign called ‘Be a Friend’ which aims to connect lonely people with people in their community and beyond. Their objective is to show how easy and undemanding on both time and resources it is to help battle loneliness of the elderly in the UK.
The vision of the charity is a society ‘where all older people are treated with respect and have the opportunity to live fulfilled lives’. Friends of the Elderly has been providing help and support to older people for over 100 years on different levels of engagement, including care homes, creation of day-time activity opportunities for elderly people or providing grants.
In their latest campaign ‘Be a Friend’, they’re calling on public to help and ‘change the future of loneliness’ by taking small steps, such as getting to know people who live around you and seeing how you can help. From having a chat at the bus stop or over the garden fence, there are so many simple ways you can stay connected. Even this small talk and everyday 5 minutes interaction can help combat elderly loneliness.
Stories that Friends of the Elderly have collected so far are truly inspiring and cheerful. Take for instance Harriet’s story. Harriet is a 90 years old lady who has lived on her own ever since her husband passed away ten years ago and she got accustomed to being alone. But on the day of her 90th birthday she received a lovely surprise. Showing up at her doorstep, about 20 neighbours came to sing Happy Birthday to Harriet, wish her all the best and gave her a birthday card. It is a small act of kindness but Harriet admits it was very touching and she felt she was still ‘connected to the world’.
Mana got involved with #beafriend campaign too and shared her story. ‘I have an older friend who is unable to get around easily. One of the things that I do is chat to her about what’s happening in the world and she shared her reflections with me’. Mana also stressed how important is to be aware of those who are on their own and look for ways how to help them.
Debbie’s story shows that many old people would like to stay part of the community but their age and health conditions often prevent them from doing so. Debbie has set up an email club to keep community in her village connected. One day, she met Julie, a 84 year old lady. Julie told Debbie that her and other older people in the village would be happy to participate in the community, however they do not have access to email technology and cannot walk all the way to the village notice board to stay updated. She however mentioned that they could ‘read notices that are pinned to the tree in their road’. Debbie understood how important it can be for older people to feel included in the society. She managed to persuade the Council to pin notices to the tree Julie mentioned to her so her and other elderly members of the community feel like they belong.
It isn’t however only individuals who have joined the Friends of Elderly on their mission and become friends. Barclay’s bank also promised to help bring old people back to the society and helps them understand and embrace modern technologies. Their programme The Digital Eagles help people understand online banking technologies and stay connected. And other companies support Friends of the Elderly through voting for them as their Charity of the Year.
Bringing together the efforts of individuals, communities and organisations, Friends of the Elderly and their Be a Friend campaign continuously helps to battle loneliness that many old people in the UK experience. Over 3,000 people already joined their efforts and you can do too. Click here to visit their website, read more inspiring stories and posts on their Friend’s Wall and find out how you can join or support the charity.