ONE of Sheffield’s leading older people’s charities is calling for more befriending volunteers to help support vulnerable and lonely older people this National Friendship Day.
Good Neighbour Scheme volunteer, Jackie Gelder and service user, June Jayne talked candidly about the friendship that has blossomed between them since being matched by local charity, Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC)’s befriending service earlier this year.
June (75) has lived in S6 for 22 years. She now shares her home with her two dogs, Lawson and Harley, her tortoise and budgie. Although she is independent, loneliness has still had a huge impact on her life. After her long-term partner became unwell, June was unable to look after him at home, so he now lives in a care home. June’s family, although living in Sheffield, have busy lives with young families and June understands that life gets in the way.
“Life during Covid was a nightmare for me. My partner became very ill and I developed pneumonia and sepsis, at one point we were both in the same hospital. I realised then that I would not be able to look after him at home because of my own health issues. When he did come home he had fallen several times and I couldn’t pick him up, the decision to move him to a care home was taken out of my hands, I had no choice. I’ve had a lot of physical pain in my life for many years, but there’s no pain worse than loneliness. Nothing worse than that. Loneliness and loss, wicked, terrible things.”
June was referred to SCCCC’s Good Neighbour friendly visiting scheme after being referred by the hospital. She was matched with SCCCC volunteer, Jackie Gelder, who also lives in S6.
“This was my first experience as a volunteer, I wanted to give something back and support vulnerable, lonely people. I thought if I could make just one person feel better, why wouldn’t I do that? I saw it as my role to go in for a specific reason and was prepared to do that with whoever I was paired with, but when I was introduced to June we instantly hit it off. We have become really good friends. We have a routine, we put the kettle on and talk about June’s family, the pets, news, and politics. We have a bit of banter and a laugh. Visiting June is part of my life now.”
“I am much more positive than I was. I had forgotten what it was like to have a decent conversation with someone. I didn’t want to talk to someone about my needs, I wanted to have a conversation. I didn’t want to talk about bingo, tea or arthritis, I wanted a proper discussion. I was a social worker and Jackie is a physiotherapist so we have a lot in common and we talk about health and social care regularly. Jackie is like family, she tells me straight when I am being mardy and puts me in touch with reality – she has made a huge difference to my life.”
What started with telephone calls has now progressed to face-to-face visits in June’s home. Jackie said:
“We tease each other, we know the boundaries, we are equals. I am not there to rescue June from her situation – we are a couple of mates having a chat. I get so much out of our friendship too. For someone new thinking about volunteering, I would highly recommend SCCCC. They do some gentle hand holding without feeling like you are patronised, they appreciate the skills you are bringing but also you are assured that systems and processes are really robust. I know if I had any issues they would be fully listened to and actioned. I have no doubt. They scooped June up when she was at her lowest, they matched and signposted and supported me to be the best person I am to be there for June. We joke and have fun. Life’s too short not to smile. Long may it continue.’’
If you can spare an hour a week to visit an isolated, lonely person in your community email: firstname.lastname@example.org or head to our website to find out more: www.scccc.co.uk.