The Yorkshire befriending charity tackling increasing loneliness among elderly

85-year-old Wendy Johnson has lived on her own since her husband died 15 years ago.

Despite having a supportive family, she says there's nothing like having someone "to yourself."

And while she hasn't had that for fifteen years, lockdown has compounded those feelings of isolation.

"You sit, you put on a brave face and you think 'there must be more to life than this?'

"But I go for a walk round the block, I go to the shop to see people and talk to the checkout staff. That relieves the monotony of being on your own.

"But it's not the same it's not somebody just for you is it?"

Wendy has now signed up for a local befriending scheme through Harrogate charity Supporting Older People. It unites those feeling isolated with a volunteer who visits them once a week.

But with demand for the scheme higher than ever, there is currently a waiting list. Manager Julia Lightfoot says they're in urgent need of more volunteers.

"We need people to come forward to volunteer. We ask for an hour a week and while they may be a bit nervous to start with, once they get going, it's like a true friend."

Where to go to get support:

For 92-year-old Dorothy Brydon, that's exactly what she found in volunteer Amandine Thomas.

After going blind and losing her husband of 40 years, she became unable to leave the house.

But for the last five years, Amandine has been visiting once a week.

"She takes me out, we go shopping, sometimes she takes me to the doctors.

"When I'm in the house on my own I get miserable and I have to say to myself 'come on Dorothy!' But I don't know what I'd do without her."

But it's not just Dorothy who has seen the benefits. Amandine says she thinks she gets even more out of it than Dorothy does.

Dorothy and Amandine

"We just get on like a house on fire. We're very similar, have a very similar sense of humour. She is like my granny, my best friend. She knows everything about me!"

A recent study from the British Red Cross has found that despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, loneliness is actually getting worse.

Among their findings:

  • Before the Covid-19 crisis one in five people reported being often or always lonely. Now, 41 per cent of UK adults report feeling lonelier since lockdown.

  • More than a quarter of UK adults agree that they worry something will happen to them and no one will notice.

  • Thirty-one per cent of UK adults often feel alone, as though they have no one to turn to.

For people like Wendy, those feelings are very familiar. But she hopes with just one visit a week, an hour's chat could help her feel a little less isolated.