Age UK launch befriending service

A CHARITY which supports the older generation has launched an appeal aimed at helping North Somerset residents survive the cold winter months.

Age UK Somerset say one of the worst aspects of the season is less daylight hours and longer nights, meaning those who are alone, isolated, or housebound can suffer from a lack of social contact.

The problem, which can lead to loneliness and depression and have a serious effect on quality of life, has prompted the organisation to create Together, a befriending service.

The Shortest Day Appeal aims to raise funds for trained volunteers to visit people in their home once a week.

Former specialist nurse Clare Fraley, from Tickenham, got involved with the befriending service a year ago after looking for voluntary work since she retired.

The 57-year-old responded to an advert in a magazine, and having previously visited patients in their homes whilst working as part of the Renal Unit at Southmead Hospital, in Bristol, she felt it would be a good use of her skills and experience.

She said: “I like the older generation and felt I could give a lot of help to them.

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“So many people live alone now and don’t have the opportunity to discuss things with other people and give their opinion.

“We talk about their health, interests from their past lives, families, news stories, the weather, general talk really.

“The idea is to enable them to get socialised again, perhaps if they have been unwell or lost their independence somehow.

“We try to get them into lunch clubs, get them out and about and away from the same four walls.

“It is wonderful work, from the little bit I have done it makes a big difference to people who have no family nearby and few friends.”

Clare has helped five people so far, three of them at the same time, and visits for about two hours at a time, once a week.

The care can carry on for several years; Clare has known a friendship to continue after an elderly person has moved into a nursing home.

She added: “I intend to carry on doing this as long as I can, I find it very rewarding.”

Libby Lisgo, Chief Executive of Age UK Somerset said: “Many older people in North Somerset are affected by isolation and loneliness and a visit from one of our volunteer befrienders can be the highlight of their week and something to look forward to.

“A donation of just �4 a month can cover the costs of four weekly visits and a donation of �48 can mean that an isolated and lonely person can receive a visit every week for a year.”

Donations can be made by calling 01823 345623, emailing or by visiting