'They mean so much to me': Freda, 83, says she'd be lost without BeFriend volunteers

A volunteer service in the Borders, which offers companionship to older people whose mental health may be suffering because of loneliness and isolation, says its demand has almost doubled during the coronavirus outbreak.

Those behind the BeFriend project say they've had to adapt how they operate but that their service is now more important than ever.

Freda, an 83-year-old woman from Kelso, hasn't seen her family since Christmas and say's she'd be lost without their support.

She said: "It's terrible I've never been out for nine weeks because I just self isolated. Its very depressing isn't it, very depressing. I do miss my daughter and my granddaughter. I do miss them."

At the moment, socially distanced visits from the project are whats is getting Freda through the pandemic lockdown.

Her husband has dementia and she usually gets a lot of support from Berwickshire housing associations befriend project - it provides one to one companionship and group activities for elderly people who may be lonely or isolated.

Kerry visits Freda for a catchup now and again, something which Freda says she'd be lost without. Credit: ITV News

They've had to move mostly to phone-based befriending but are still going that extra mile to help those who may be struggling.

Freda said: "They mean so much to me, they're so kind and caring, If i didn't have them I don't know what I would do."

Every week, volunteer Kerry comes and sits in Freda's front garden and they have a good catch up. For her, and the other people Kerry visits, it's the only real social contact they're getting outside the four walls of their house.

Kerry said: "My experience is when I've sat in someones garden and chatted with them they've been a bit more honest about how they're feeling or they might bring up a subject thats been worrying them."

Kerry is a volunteer for BeFriend. Credit: ITV News

Those behind the project say the demand for their service has almost doubled during lockdown as people can't leave the house or see their families.

Terri Bearhope, from the BeFriend Project, said: "We're now phoning about 100 people between us in order to maintain contact with them.

"Just having telephone calls is never going to be ideal, but I feel we're doing the best we can at the moment and hopefully the garden visits will help as well."