St Monica's project matches volunteers with older people who lack confidence to get out

March 29 2019
Lonely no more as volunteers encourage South Bristol folk to broaden their horizons

“I haven’t been out that late at night for a long long time!” Jeffrey said of his trip to the theatre with ACE Neighbours volunteer Anne.

Pictured: Volunteer Anne with Jeffrey, right

“I HAVEN'T been out that late at night for a long, long time!” Jeffrey said of his trip to the theatre with ACE Neighbours volunteer Anne.  

With no local family or friends, and feeling detached from his neighbours and community, Jeffrey wanted some help to build his confidence to “get out and about and enjoy life”.  

Anne was keen to volunteer with older people after a lifetime of working with children: “I wanted to give my time and energy to someone who would benefit” – and so became an ACE Neighbours volunteer.

Jeffrey was referred to ACE Neighbours. The project, run by Bristol charity the St Monica Trust, aims to reduce loneliness and isolation in older people.  A volunteer is matched with an older person and together they can try things until the person feels confident getting out and about on their own.  

Jeffrey said: “I needed a buddy; someone who I could go out and meet for a coffee.  Before Anne started visiting me, life was dark. I wasn’t active. I plodded on from day to day. At Anne’s first visit we talked and talked. We talked about anything and everything and felt at ease in each other’s company.  

“Our next visit was meeting up at the swimming pool. After that we enjoyed many hours of drinking coffee at the leisure centre (as well as swimming!) I really enjoyed each visit from Anne. It’s nice to know that someone’s coming and have that to look forward to. Anne always had a smile on her face.  If I needed something explaining, Anne explained it to me. Or if I felt uneasy Anne helped me through it.”  

Over the last six months that Anne has been spending time with Jeffrey she can see the difference in him: “Jeffrey is now more confident and outward-looking.” 

Jeffrey agreed: “I can now go out and find stuff to do. My main aim is to get out and socialise.”  During their time together, Jeffrey joined a cookery course and a gardening group. He also started attending a local coffee morning, which was a significant step for Jeffrey as he went along to it for the first time without Anne – something which a few months ago he wouldn’t have had the confidence to do. Jeffrey also attends a monthly prayer meeting and through his involvement there has started donating to the local food bank. “It feels nice to do it – to give something back.”  

Jeffrey now has a structure to his week and most importantly, has the social contact he was lacking previously. Anne enjoyed her volunteering greatly and although the six-month period of support has come to an end, Anne and Jeffrey’s friendship hasn’t.  They have plans to visit a garden centre, the museum and are looking forward to an upcoming cinema trip. 

If you know an older person (aged over 65) who is experiencing loneliness and is lacking in confidence to get out, St Monica’s may be able to help. The project covers Hartcliffe, Withywood, Filwood, Lawrence Hill and Keynsham.

The project is also in need of friendly and enthusiastic volunteers over the age of 60. Volunteers receive training, on-going support and all expenses are paid.  

If you’d like to know more about the ACE Neighbours project, contact Catherine on 07817 632963 or catherine.robinson@stmonicatrust.org.uk

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