Age UK Oxfordshire; a better deal for older people
"You could be a volunteer Phone Friend"
Most of us aren’t faced with the hardship of being totally alone.
You might live on your own, but every day you go out to work and interact with your colleagues, each Saturday night you meet friends for hours of debauchery, and then the next day drag yourself to your mother’s for that recovery roast. You may have just split with a partner, but there are countless shoulders to cry on – some possibly not as sympathetic as others but shoulders nonetheless.
Your now-not-so-young child could have just darted off to university leaving the house quieter and your mood a touch sadder…but they’ll be back at Christmas, probably before.
However, there are thousands of older people across Oxfordshire living in complete and utter solitude. While the rest of us interact, cry on shoulders and eagerly await loved ones coming back home, these people have nobody.
But there are things we can do to help them.
Paul Cann is the chief executive of Age UK Oxfordshire. He has worked in charity for 25 years, dedicating the last 16 of these to helping older people. Armed with a “passion and energy to see the world in a better place”, he spoke to us about what can be done to aid all those older people living on their own in this county.
“So many people, actually of all ages, but many older people in particular, feel that life has given up on them,” Paul Cann says as we discuss the “problem of loneliness”. The “challenge for the whole of society,” he continues, “is to reach out to one another more.”
So how? You want to do something to help; what steps should you now take?
“You could be a volunteer Phone Friend,” informs Paul. “They make calls to housebound and isolated older people simply to bond with them and give them the feeling that they haven’t been forgotten.”
Those wanting to give to Oxfordshire’s older people can also volunteer to visit somebody in person – another befriending scheme Age UK run designed to make, as Paul states, “people feel they matter to somebody.”
As well as the above, Paul talks to us about the national Campaign to End Loneliness, which launched in 2011 and is “going great guns now”. Independent Age, Manchester City Council, Royal Voluntary Service, Sense, and Age UK Oxfordshire join together in governing the initiative, which exists to “do something more to connect people who feel left behind in later life.” With over 2,500 supporters, the campaign lists all the ways you can help the cause on campaigntoendloneliness.org.
A lot of people may be unaware of how many older people there are living alone in our county. “We have something like 35,000 older people in Oxfordshire who are living on their own,” says Paul, “and we have to do something about that. Age UK’s job is not only to give direct help but to raise awareness and campaign, and we will certainly campaign as hard as we can for a better deal for older people.”
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