Need a New Year's resolution? Why not volunteer to help end loneliness?
Published: 12 Jan 2018
Volunteers across Hertfordshire are making a big difference in their communities by giving up their time to help tackle loneliness, which can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Coupled with isolation, the cold and wintry conditions and shorter days mean that many already feel in poor health at this time of year. More than half of British adults say admitting to loneliness is difficult – and three quarters of over-65s (76%) say they would find it hard to admit to being lonely because they do not want to be a burden, a recent study by the Campaign to End Loneliness has shown.
Colette Wyatt-Lowe, Cabinet Member for Adult Care and Health, said: “We know that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health. Volunteers make a big difference to individuals and communities in a number of ways, taking time out to spend with people who might otherwise be lonely or contributing to a range of other essential services can improve lives greatly.
She added: “Volunteering is also a good opportunity to meet new people locally and get to know your community better. It can also help you demonstrate your skills and pave the way to a new career.”
Louisa, a volunteer with Age UK from Harpenden, said: “My mother-in-law lived with us for the last four years of her life when she became very dependent. It made me realise how lonely older people can feel and this inspired me to volunteer to spend some time with the elderly. It also opened our family’s eyes to the challenges of getting older.
“Age UK introduced me to Margaret in January 2017. I visit her once a week and spend about an hour with her. We chat over tea and sometimes go into town to get a coffee. Margaret is a lovely lady and very independent. She is passionate about jigsaws and also loves reading, colouring, Sudoku and finding amusing news in the papers.
“We enjoy each other’s company chatting about the latest news, our lives and experiences. It’s great to feel that I’m giving something back whilst also having an enriched life. We all need to look out for the elderly in our community. One day we may be in their situation.”
If you wish to give something back to your local community, you could volunteer for organisations that support older people. These often offer "befriending" schemes for isolated elderly people, and rely on volunteers for one-to-one contact as a telephone "buddy", visitor or driver, or hosting social events for groups.
Your contribution could be as simple as a weekly telephone call to an isolated older person, or extend to regular home visits for a chat and to help with shopping and so on, driving an elderly person to a social event, or even hosting coffee mornings for groups of elderly people.
Several organisations such as #TeamHerts and many others from both the public and voluntary sectors work closely with volunteers each and every day. For more information about volunteering and to find a volunteering opportunity that works for you, go to www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/volunteering.
If you are worried about a friend, neighbour or relative who might be lonely or at risk of loneliness, HertsHelp can help you find out about support that may be available. Call HertsHelp on 0300 123 4044 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.