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London charity connects older people with their neighbours

28th December 2015

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

A charity in London called North London Cares has set up a befriending scheme to combat loneliness in older people and bring communities together. The scheme has particularly benefited those who are living independently but with limited mobility, enabling them to develop social connections from their home.

The story of two people who met through North London Cares has been shared by the Huffington Post, their story demonstrating that there are benefits for both those doing the visiting and those being visited.

How North London Cares has changed the lives of two people

93-year-old Kathleen Humphreys has lived in the same flat in Holborn since 1969, where she used to live with her twin sister. She now lives alone and has mobility difficulties, which makes it near impossible for her to get out to nearby shops, even with the use of a walker mobility aid.

Speaking about her loneliness, Kathleen said: "I haven’t got anyone to ring up anymore. You need somebody just to chat to. If you see something on the television, you want to turn to somebody and say ‘did you see that? What about that?’. But I can’t talk to the television."

26-year-old Tori North is an occupational therapist who works in a local hospital, who found that her job inspired her to help older people, but she needed the right setting in which to do it. “What I was finding is that I have so many lovely patients that, when it’s time for them to be discharged, they say ‘you should come over for a cup of tea and see me’ and I always wanted to but it was never really appropriate. It’s that professional relationship.

"So I thought it would be a good idea to get involved in a charity and have someone that I could see regularly.”

Tori signed up with North London Cares, and Kathleen’s physiotherapist put her in touch with the charity. Tori began visiting Kathleen once a week after a project officer at North London Cares interviewed the pair and thought they would be a good match in terms of their personalities and what they were looking to get out of the scheme.

Reflection on the scheme has shown that they both benefit from their weekly chats. Tori says, “I love hearing her stories. I always leave with a smile on my face.”

Kathleen benefits from both the help with odd jobs and the companionship, saying “Whatever happens, I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate. People like Tori have always turned up. Somebody has always turned up when things have been bad. She’s a gem.”

North London Cares describes itself as ‘a network of young professionals and older neighbours offering one another a little extra time, practical help, social connection and human companionship’.

The charity is doing some great work in North London – if you’re looking to help older people elsewhere in the UK, check out our guide to how you can help older people. You can also get involved with Age UK’s Befriending service, which is operated by local Age UKs across the country. Some happen over the phone, whilst others involve a volunteer visiting an older person at home – find out more information here.

Image Credit: Simon James (flickr.com)