A Bedford charity that has helped tackle social isolation has celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Friends for Life held a spring party to celebrate their 10th anniversary on Tuesday, May 2, at the Place Theatre.
The event was attended by two patrons, the Lord-Lieutenant Helen Nellis and the Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Rev Richard Atkinson, who presented long service awards to volunteers who had been befriending with Friends for Life for five years or more.
These were Pauline Barber, Ken Barber, Joanne Barrow, Zofia Durrant, Janet Ibberson, Wendy Jones, Bill Lavery, Margaret Oakley and Gay Turner.
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 who recognised that the social isolation of care home residents in Bedford was a hidden need not being addressed.
Now a registered charity, 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 visitors, by offering volunteer befrienders to residents who receive few or no external visitors.
The charity has 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 many residents to feel that they are listened to, respected, seen as individuals and cared about.
Kathryn Hughes, co-ordinator, said: “We live in an ageing population where there 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. Our befrienders are highly valued within the care homes they visit, by both the residents they visit and the care home staff alike. The work they do and the difference they make, often goes unseen, so it has been wonderful to hold this Spring Party to thank them for all that they contribute to improving the lives of the elderly in Bedford.
“We are very grateful to many local funders, particularly the Harpur Tust, St John’s Hospital Trust and St Andrew’s Outreach Committee for helping us sustain and grow the work we are doing here in Bedford.”
The Lord-Lieutenant, Helen Nellis said: “It was a genuine privilege to meet these extraordinary volunteers who befriend those residents in local Care Homes who are quite alone. Isolation is a major problem of our modern age, and Friends for Life demonstrate how each one of us can make a difference to our neighbours by simply holding out the hand of friendship.”
Friends for Life are seeking more volunteers, both male and female, of all ages and backgrounds to train as befrienders so that more isolated care home residents can receive the joy of friendship. If you are interested in volunteering with them, please email their administrator Pauline Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.