Bedford charity tackles social isolation through friendship

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Friends for Life began as a small charitable project in 2007 as a joint initiative between the Bedford Anglican Deanery and the North Bedfordshire Methodist Circuit.

The two recognised that the social isolation of care home residents in Bedford was a hidden need not being addressed.

Ten years on they celebrate their success in now being a registered charity with the Charity Commission.

Over the last ten years, Friends for Life’s aim has remained the same - to stretch out the hand of friendship to those in residential care who are socially isolated, receiving few or no external visitorsby offering volunteer befrienders to residents who receive few or no external visitors.

On Tuesday at the Place Theatre in Bedford, Friends for Life held a Spring Party to celebrate their 10-year anniversary.

The event was attended by two of Friends for Life’s patrons, the Lord-Lieutenant, Helen Nellis and the Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Revd Richard Atkinson, who presented long service awards to volunteers who had been befriending with Friends for Life for five years or more.

Friends for Life have volunteers visiting in 28 of the 37 care homes in Bedford Borough who make particular provision for those aged 65 or older.

They also work closely with social services, providing befrienders who speak additional languages to residents for whom English is not their mother tongue. From chatting and playing games to facilitating trips to local parks, local pubs and nearby shops Friend’s for Life volunteers, enable so many residents to feel that they are listened to, respected, seen as individuals and cared about.

Kathryn Hughes, Friends for Life’s Co-ordinator said: “We live in an ageing population where they are now more over 60s than there are under 18s and where more than 400,000 people live in residential care.

“Studies increasingly show the impact loneliness has on a person’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and it is an established fact that those living in residential care are at a higher risk of experiencing loneliness.

“Over the 10 years of Friends for Life’s existence, our befrienders have provided much needed time, company and friendship to over 100 residents in Bedford Borough.”

For more information contact Pauline Carter on pauline@friendsforlifebedford.org.uk