“I have obtained a great deal of enjoyment from my new friends”

January 3rd, 2018

Clare, a Visiting Volunteer for Age UK Hertfordshire, shares her experience of visiting lonely older people.

Where do you volunteer and for how long have you been doing it?

I have been a volunteer with Age UK Hertfordshire for a little over 3 years now. To provide some background, I volunteered for the hospital as a newspaper ward trolley when I retired some years earlier. When that job came to an end after the last inpatient ward closed at QEII, I looked around for another task.

What do you do within your volunteering role?

I am a volunteer visitor for Age UK Hertfordshire. I started visiting two ladies, needing weekly visits so I did each alternately and they are both lovely, although totally different.

One, obviously highly intelligent, a retired maths teacher and still physically very fit, has Alzheimer’s, a condition she is aware of and extremely frustrated by. Never having encountered dementia before, this was an education for me but I soon became used to our circular conversations. I usually stayed about 1½ hours with her. Her real need was for human contact because with a total absence of short term memory, she was unable to follow a book, a television program or the current news although she still took a daily paper. In fact, the only occupation she enjoyed was completing books of numerical puzzles, which gave her great pleasure.

But company and conversation was what she craved and when the local lunch club she attended three days a week moved to Hatfield, her family decided it was time she moved into a care home. Probably the best thing from a safety point of view, but I was sad for her to lose the independence she could obviously cope with at present. I still think of her as a friend and have visited her a couple of times in her new home.

My other lady is quite different. Mentally as good as new, we discuss everything from Brexit to the American presidency to the Rohingya Muslims, whatever she has been listening to on the midday news, as well as our families and a whole range of subjects. I usually stay about 2 hours with her, ending with a cup of tea and piece of cake. Accustomed to an active life, she too is frustrated, but in her case, it is her physical frailty that restricts her. She too has attended a local lunch club, but is irritated by the other attendees’ conversation, which is all about the medication they are on.

What motivated you to volunteer?

To be honest, when I consider my motivation, I cannot claim volunteering to be altruistic. Because the fact is for me, and I suspect many other volunteers, I enjoy the contact with a whole range of people.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

All in all, I have obtained a great deal of enjoyment from my new friends and I hope they do not consider me a total disaster.

How often do you volunteer for Age UK Herts and balance it with other life commitments?

It is not at all an arduous job, being, as with my previous task, only one-half day a week, which is easy to fit in with the other occupations of the retired, such as grandchild minding.

If someone was interested in finding out more about volunteering with Age UK how do they find out more?

If you are interested in volunteering for Age UK Hertfordshire  email: volunteering@ageukherts.org.uk  Tel: 01707 386060 or visit our website:   https://www.ageuk.org.uk/hertfordshire/volunteer-for-us1/.

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