Loneliness is one of the most invisible but debilitating issues in society today, but all across West Lothian volunteers are working to ease social isolation among some of our most vulnerable residents – the over 75s.
Re-engage, formerly known as Contact the Elderly, and its army of supporters tackle loneliness in this older generation through regular Sunday afternoon tea parties and other activities.
The monthly events are usually held in a local host’s home and guests are chauffeured to and from the gatherings by volunteer drivers – a crucial service that solves any transport worries for those who have difficulty getting out and about. Scotland-wide there are more than 140 groups with more than 1000 guests whose lives are often transformed through this simple solution of some kindness and company over a cup of tea.
In West Lothian there are currently five thriving groups – Almond Valley, Armadale, Bathgate, Livingston and Whitburn.
Scotland-wide there are more than 140 groups with more than 1000 guests whose lives are often transformed through this simple solution of some kindness and company over a cup of tea.
Lorna Dunbar, the charity’s support officer for the area says: “Social isolation is one of society’s biggest problems, especially among the older generation, but we see the huge difference social events like ours can make to someone who perhaps doesn’t have the chance to interact with others as much as they would like.
“Getting out and about can often become more difficult in later years, hindering social activities, and meeting new friends can be a little intimidating. But our drivers take all the anxiety out of travel and can become firm friends with guests. Plus the gatherings are small and intimate and everyone is just delighted to be part of the group.”
“We’re always pleased to hear from anyone who would like to join, particularly volunteer drivers who are vital to the success of Re-engage. We only ask them to devote two or three hours a month to ensure our guests continue to enjoy their Sunday afternoon out.
“It’s really not much to ask if you’ve got a spare Sunday afternoon once a month and for anyone new to volunteering it’s an ideal way to get involved,” said Lorna.
“We believe everyone should have the opportunity of a social life, no matter how old they are. Making friendships and meaningful connections is vital to well-being and our get-togethers can really help to enrich the lives of the older generation.”
To find out more about becoming a volunteer with Re-engage, please contact Lorna Dunbar at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel 01738 730249
There are 5.4 million people in the UK who are over 75, and 2.2 million of them live alone.
There are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK.
Over half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.
Being lonely is miserable, but it can also have a very damaging affect on physical health and mental wellbeing: lonely people with poor social connections are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression.
Published in Konect November 2019
This article was contributed by Re-engage. Re-engage (formerly Contact the Elderly) is a charity that is positive about older age and committed to fighting loneliness.