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Making connections that matter

Ruth, a befriender for Age UK Barnet, reflects on her experiences.

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Volunteering (source: Canva images)
By Karen Williamson 22 February 2021

Ruth first started befriending after a period of depression and loneliness when she felt that she could use what she learnt to help others. During the pandemic, she has continued with phone befriending and is also shopping and picking up prescriptions.Ruth first started befriending after a period of depression and loneliness when she felt that she could use what she learnt to help others. During the pandemic, she has continued with phone befriending and is also shopping and picking up prescriptions.

I started volunteering for Age UK when I was coming out of a difficult period in my life, in which I’d suffered from depression and loneliness, and I wanted to try to pull something positive out of my experience. I started volunteering for Age UK when I was coming out of a difficult period in my life, in which I’d suffered from depression and loneliness, and I wanted to try to pull something positive out of my experience. 

The lovely lady I befriend lives about a 20-minute walk from my house, which meant that before Covid-19 I could easily visit each week for about an hour. I would usually sit in her front room with a cup of tea and we would chat about everything going on for us and her past.The lovely lady I befriend lives about a 20-minute walk from my house, which meant that before Covid-19 I could easily visit each week for about an hour. I would usually sit in her front room with a cup of tea and we would chat about everything going on for us and her past.

She’s got loads of stories about the war and loves reminiscing about her childhood and meeting her husband. She has told me of her wonderful memories from VE Day. I think she gains a lot from me listening to her since she doesn’t have family nearby and finds it hard to get out and about. These weekly connections are her only real opportunity to vent about whatever is on her mind. Sometimes it’s old holidays, celebrities she met years ago (I never know who they are) and sometimes it’s how rude the gas man was last week.She’s got loads of stories about the war and loves reminiscing about her childhood and meeting her husband. She has told me of her wonderful memories from VE Day. I think she gains a lot from me listening to her since she doesn’t have family nearby and finds it hard to get out and about. These weekly connections are her only real opportunity to vent about whatever is on her mind. Sometimes it’s old holidays, celebrities she met years ago (I never know who they are) and sometimes it’s how rude the gas man was last week.

Meeting with her never feels like a chore. Before lockdown, I took her out to the cinema and to lunch when the weather was good. She told me that she hadn’t been to the cinema in more than a decade and on the way home she cried because it had been a break from the monotony. She didn’t think much of the film though (Little Women.…). Meeting with her never feels like a chore. Before lockdown, I took her out to the cinema and to lunch when the weather was good. She told me that she hadn’t been to the cinema in more than a decade and on the way home she cried because it had been a break from the monotony. She didn’t think much of the film though (Little Women.…). 

Now that we can no longer see one another in person I help her a little more with shopping and posting her letters and I call her twice a week for a chat. Now that we can no longer see one another in person I help her a little more with shopping and posting her letters and I call her twice a week for a chat. 

Ruth chatting on the phoneRuth chatting on the phone

I have also supported an older gentleman who had underlying health conditions but survived Covid-19 after being in hospital. I helped out with a bit of shopping and collecting his prescriptions, but again, it was mainly the social contact and phone calls he wanted.I have also supported an older gentleman who had underlying health conditions but survived Covid-19 after being in hospital. I helped out with a bit of shopping and collecting his prescriptions, but again, it was mainly the social contact and phone calls he wanted.

I know that during that time he felt very alone - his wife was in a care home and it was hard to visit. He loved to chat about his dad who was a dancer in the early days of showbiz in the 1930s and his passion for 1950s films. Sadly, this gentleman passed away at the end of 2020. I know that during that time he felt very alone - his wife was in a care home and it was hard to visit. He loved to chat about his dad who was a dancer in the early days of showbiz in the 1930s and his passion for 1950s films. Sadly, this gentleman passed away at the end of 2020. 

I am looking forward to craft mornings at the Ann Owens Centre starting up again. Most of the older people attending don’t care too much about what activity they’re doing or how their craft turns out - it’s the joy of making and the social contact that they look forward to.I am looking forward to craft mornings at the Ann Owens Centre starting up again. Most of the older people attending don’t care too much about what activity they’re doing or how their craft turns out - it’s the joy of making and the social contact that they look forward to.

Further information on:Further information on:

Volunteering with Age UK BarnetVolunteering with Age UK Barnet

Befriending with Age UK BarnetBefriending with Age UK Barnet

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