Charity needs more volunteers to help reduce social isolation
PUBLISHED: 08:00 03 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:04 03 January 2019
More than 5,000 people in North Somerset benefited from vital support services run by Age UK last year.
The charity has just celebrated its 70th anniversary – marking seven decades of support for older people.
Age UK Somerset provides a lifeline for people who are lonely and isolated or in need of advice.
This year the charity is focussing its efforts in four key areas in North Somerset to improve the lives of older people – exercise, befriending, free information and advice and anti-scamming support.
The charity is running a number of exercise classes to help people to stay active and make new friends.
It will also try to reach out to more people with its befriending service where volunteers spend time with people who live alone to prevent them from feeling isolated and lonely.
Age UK Somerset also offers free information and advice on a range of issues including benefits.
A charity spokesman said: “North Somerset Council is working closely with Age UK Somerset in both the anti-scamming and befriending work.
“Hundreds of older people each week are being helped.
“But more volunteers are needed to visit those lonely older people most in need.
“Spending some time together each week these befriending volunteers have built genuine friendships and it is not uncommon to see those who once were visited then taking on the role of volunteer and visiting others.
“The anti-scamming work is so vital too with older people often being targeted by unscrupulous individuals and gangs.
“Dozens of exercise classes are held each week in North Somerset because maintaining balance is so vital for older people.
“The damage done by a slip, trip or fall can be life changing.
“More than 50 per cent of those aged over 80 will have a serious fall during their life. Sometimes this can spell the end of independent living so the classes are vital.
“Some classes are led by volunteers in their 80s. They have long recognised the benefits of exercise, plus the friendships built up are priceless.”
The charity helps more than 5,000 people in North Somerset each year, thanks to a team of more than 170 volunteers.
However, it costs around £100,000 a year to run its services, so the charity is always looking for donations.
One of the main issues affecting older people is loneliness, which can have a huge impact on their health and wellbeing.
According to research from Age UK, older people in North Somerset often go for a month without meeting up with a friend.
The figures also show more than 41,000 people over 65 in the South West have not even had a conversation with family or friends in the same period.
Age UK Somerset is working hard to combat loneliness through a range of services and activities.
Phil Dolan, chief executive at Age UK Somerset said: “There is far more awareness now of the problem of loneliness and as a result I think many families and friends make a real effort to be kind to older people, especially at this time of year.
“However, as the new research shows, sadly, some older people are still being left out in the cold and have no one at all to turn to for advice or support.
“So as well as doing your bit to be friendly to the older people you know, if you could please support us, we can be there for those who are almost always on their own.
“No one should have to live like that in old age.”
Age UK Somerset is the largest charity working with and for older people in Somerset and North Somerset.
One in four of the region’s population will be over 65 within three years - which is 17 years ahead of the national average.
The charity’s role is to promote wellbeing and independence of older people and add value to later life.
Age UK Somerset provides activities and services including information and advice, hundreds of exercise sessions, a befriending service, toe nail cutting, assistance with benefit claims and campaigning which promotes the wellbeing of older people and helps to improve people’s lives.
The charity is encouraging people to find out how they can help their older relatives, neighbours and people in their communities.
For details about the support services available call 01823 345610. People can also find out more about the charity at www.ageuksomerset.org.uk