Careium has recently partnered with Re-engage, a national charity that provides social connections for older people. Re-engage is committed to fighting loneliness so that people can have social lives however old they are. They inspire and enable meaningful connections and shared experiences within communities, with a special focus on people over 75 facing loneliness and social isolation.
The work they do aligns perfectly with Careium’s core values of ‘show care, act smart, be heroes’. They rely on donations from statutory funders, trusts, corporate donors and individuals, so we are delighted to be able to offer our support so they can continue to do their work with older people.
They have a network of 15,000 volunteers working together to create better communities and help to enrich the lives of older people by giving them something to look forward to. In normal times, they run Sunday tea parties, bringing joy to thousands of older people, many of whom are rarely able to leave their homes. However, in response to the pandemic they set up a UK-wide Call Companions telephone befriending service so that older people who are feeling alone can receive a regular friendly phone call throughout the crisis and beyond, for as long as they want to.
Case Study: ‘Kelly’s calls saved my sanity’ Joan, 89, describes how her call companion is helping her through the lockdown.
When I was offered a call companion in the spring, I jumped at the chance. We were in the national lockdown and, to be honest with you, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. It had got to that stage.
I’ve lived on my own for 16 years since my husband died, so you’d think I’d be used to my own company. But I’m the sort of person who, if I’ve got the chance to go out then I go out. I’m partially blind so it’s difficult, but I can do a lot of things if I put my mind to it. I found it so hard when all my clubs and activities stopped.
Kelly phones me once a week and I just love talking to her. She tells me all about her cats and what she’s been doing, and then I do the same. We have a lot in common. I used to volunteer as a First Aid nurse for the Red Cross and Kelly’s a nurse.
Kelly’s calls have saved my sanity, they really have. I love putting the world to rights with her, talking about current affairs. I make sure I’m ready when I know she’s going to call. I literally sit and wait for the phone to ring.
For anyone thinking of getting a call companion, I’d say, ‘Go on and do it!’ It might help you feel more relaxed like it does me. We have a lovely rapport. I even speak to her cat now – she says his ears perk up when he hears my voice.
I like to think I’ll stay in touch with her for the rest of my life.
The situation we’re living in at the moment, albeit temporarily, is just not good for our mental health. This is even more true if you’re already feeling isolated because you’re elderly and you’re stuck in the house on your own. I’m an A&E nurse, working in Manchester and, like Joan, I live on my own. The lockdown’s intense for everyone, of course, but particularly for anyone living alone.
Calling Joan every week helps me as much it helps her. To chat to someone who isn’t one of my colleagues or one of my friends, it’s really quite nice. The calls are easy – Joan talks about her week and I tell her about mine. Very easy, warm conversations. A very positive experience for both parties. A very valuable service. I’ll definitely continue calling Joan long after life gets back to normal.