Linking Lives

13 February 2019 | North West England

Patricia Harley and Nesta Brace

Charity’s befriending service strives to overcome loneliness.

A charity in Liverpool is battling the issue of isolation amongst the elderly with a befriending service that offers companionship to older people in the community. South Liverpool Linking Lives arranges for volunteers to visit individuals in their own home for a chat, to share in an interest or hobby, or accompany them on a short trip out to a cafe or the library.

Nesta Brace, 89, is just one person benefiting from the project which looks to get people helping people. She used to love walking and visiting museums in her hometown of Liverpool and still considers herself still relatively fit and well. But over the years she has seen her friendship circle diminish and admits getting out of her house is tough. And with her grown up children living hundreds of miles away, life had become somewhat lonely.

“The worst thing about getting older is losing friends and family. My husband Philip and I lived a very full life, and were always out and about visiting places. But he sadly passed away in December 2017. I miss him.

“And every year my Christmas card list gets smaller and smaller. Many friends have died. It can make you feel really down in the dumps. 

“I used to drive, but then I realised I was a bit past it. So I gave my car to my grandson. That means if I want to get anywhere I need to phone a taxi or get the bus. There are not any shops nearby, and the nearest Tesco is about a mile or a bus journey away. Neighbours have kindly offered to take me to the shops if needed but I like to stay independent as long as possible.”

One of Nesta’s sons heard about Linking Lives and contacted the charity to see if they could help. They paired the pensioner with Patricia Harley, as they thought the two might make good friends. Even though Patricia is in her late 70s herself, she can still drive and get around. 

Nesta is very happy with the project: “It feels great to get out of the house. Trish will pick me up and we go visit a garden centre or go to a cafe. And she calls every week to check on me. 

“I think Linking Lives is a great idea. Before, I could go for a week and not see anyone. People were out at work all day. That was hard.”

And Trish, 78, says: “Nesta is an incredible woman, and very glamorous. I like being in her company, we always have a good natter.

“I get a lot from volunteering too. I have made a new friendship but more than that I feel it is important that the community reaches out to people who are lonely and show them that they are still important and that people out there care about them.”  

Linking Lives Liverpool has matched 20 people so far since starting up in 2017. A further 10 more older people will be helped and introduced to volunteers in the next couple of weeks.  

According to Age UK, Wavertree, Liverpool ranks in the top 60 (out of 32,000) most lonely areas for older people in the UK.

Liverpool Linking Lives coordinator Hannah McLoughlin, said: “A regular visit from a friend can help to remind them that they matter. It has also been proven that regular contact can improve their health and general wellbeing.

“It is sad to think people can go a whole week without speaking to someone and that every day is the same. For those who are visually impaired it can be even worse, they can’t even read a book or watch television. This is why projects like this are so important to the community.”

To volunteer for South Liverpool Linking Lives, please contact Hannah on 07858570301 or at southliverpool@linkinglives.uk, or visit them on Facebook.

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