With Loneliness being a topical subject in the news of late, we decided to shine a little light on a national organisation working across Scotland to tackle just that.
Contact the Elderly was founded in 1965 and is the only national charity, that’s England and Wales too, solely focussed on tackling one of the greatest challenges facing our ageing population: loneliness and isolation. Supported by a network of volunteers, the charity organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties. Once a month, each older guest is collected from their home by a volunteer driver and taken to a volunteer host’s home, where they join a small group for tea, chat and companionship. The groups are warmly welcomed by different hosts each month with the drivers and guests remaining the same.
Having volunteered with Contact the Elderly herself, and with 23 groups across the Lothians, our community engagement worker Julie caught up with Lothian organiser Anne Grindley to find out more.
So how did you first get involved with Contact the Elderly?
"I started volunteering as a driver and tea party host in May 2009 after hearing a radio programme about it and thought, what a lovely idea. In 2011, having more free time now I was retired, I offered to help start new groups and support our local groups in Edinburgh and East Lothian. I did this as I knew how many older people lived alone in Edinburgh and that many were unable to get out easily on their own and didn’t see much of family and friends."
What does your role entail?
"I still drive regularly, including three older guests once a month to Sunday tea parties and other outings in Edinburgh, and host a few tea parties a year at my house. As one of now two Edinburgh area organisers, I help support our current local groups and help to start new ones. Since 2009, we have grown from only three groups to now 21 Edinburgh groups and two East Lothian. A lot of what we do is recruiting new volunteers and identifying new older guests to join our groups, so now I don’t have much free time any longer!"
What difference do you feel Contact the Elderly makes to the ladies and gentlemen who attend?
"A huge difference, as they regularly tell me. Many rarely see family and friends and are too frail to travel alone. Many spend days alone with just the TV for company. I know how much they look forward to our tea parties and their smiling faces tell it all."
The smiling faces are certainly evident in the lovely photos Anne has shared from the most recent tea party at her home.
To find out more about Contact the Elderly, visit their website.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer driver or host in the Lothians, or know any elderly people in your community who would like to be a guest, contact Anne for more details on 0131 4493949 or email@example.com