The power of friendship

8th May 2023

As people age, loneliness can become a serious problem which is said to be worse for our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Loneliness is a particular issue for vulnerable older people, and, as the population of Cumbria continues to age, it looks set to become more acute.

Two’s Company Keswick launched in September 2021 as a partnership between Churches Together in Keswick (CTiK) and Keswick Rotary Club with support from Age UK West Cumbria.

A grant of £5,000 helped set up the befriending scheme, and to build a team of volunteers to support those of all ages in the CA12 area who are socially isolated.

Referrals are welcomed from local NHS and other organisations, family and friends, and are then linked with volunteers who are chosen to match their interests and personality.

The volunteers and referrals meet face to face or have a friendly chat on the phone and this provides an outlet for people who have little contact with anyone else.

They are also on hand for support, offering advice on practical matters if needs be.

Tony Welton, Chairman, said: “Our volunteers play a vital role in our service and their commitment to regularly visiting and building a relationship is absolutely key.

To date, 20 volunteers have been vetted and trained and some 300 telephone and home visits have been made. An increasing number of outside visits are also developing – bus and car trips, walks, town visits, lunch club and café visits, hospital visits and help with filling in forms.

One volunteer befriender and their scheme member link are a great example of the positive benefit of befriending.

The member reports feeling less lonely and enjoying the friendship, saying “I’m not feeling as lonely because my befriender and I get on so well. They are a really good friend to me, and we have so much in common.”

The reliability and regularity of the service gives members something to look forward to with confidence.

Another member said: “Having someone with me has given me the confidence to get on a bus.”