Simple solution to the problem of loneliness

Margaret and Kerry during their day out at Ocean Terminal.
Margaret and Kerry during their day out at Ocean Terminal.

A visit from a friend, even just once a week, can make all the difference to an elderly person who struggles to go out by themselves.

Berwickshire Housing Association subsidiary Seton Care, which runs sheltered housing complexes in Duns, Coldstream and Eyemouth, is only too well aware of the negative effect loneliness can have on older people, which is why they run a volunteer befriender service that provides companionship for older people across Berwickshire.

It relies on there being enough people in the community willing to take part and the call has gone out for more volunteers - particularly in Coldstream, Eyemouth and Coldingham.

“If you volunteer to be a befriender, and visit older people who aren’t able to get out by themselves, you’re helping to improve their health, and possibly even your own,” said Terri Bearhope, early intervention co-ordinator with Seton Care.

“People feel lonely because they don’t have someone to confide in or share their troubles with, or someone to relax with, or someone to help them out in a crisis.

“By visiting just once a week, you could be that someone. It seems like a very small thing to do, and it is, but it has a big effect.

“Loneliness increases our risk of dementia, it affects our sleep, and increases the likelihood that we will become depressed.

“In fact loneliness can be as dangerous as smoking, being overweight, taking no exercise or having high blood pressure.

“If loneliness is a potential medical issue, then perhaps we’ll have a pill for it in the future but in the meantime, there is something we can do, even if it’s not a cure, and it’s in your hands. It’s befriending.”

Volunteer Kerry, from Coldstream visits Margaret in her home in Eyemouth and the two of them have now started planning trips together - their latest being to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, which Margaret described as “a gorgeous day”.

If you feel you could make a difference to the health of an older person, or you think you might like a volunteer to visit you, please get in touch.

To find out more about volunteering with Seton Care Befrienders, call Terri on 01361 884000 or 07801 672167, email terri.bearhope@setoncare.org.uk or visit www.setoncare.org.uk.