Scheme helps Abingdon elderly make friends

From left, Abingdon Good Neighbours Scheme chairman David Harmsworth and volunteer Michael Kovari with an elderly neighbour he visits Picture: OX69568 Jon Lewis

From left, Abingdon Good Neighbours Scheme chairman David Harmsworth and volunteer Michael Kovari with an elderly neighbour he visits Picture: OX69568 Jon Lewis Buy this photo

First published in Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

IT’S not just the residents of Ramsay Street who need good neighbours.

Growing numbers of elderly and disabled people in Abingdon are taking advantage of a scheme which links them up with new friends.

Abingdon Good Neighbours Scheme, which celebrates its fourth birthday this month, now has 45 volunteers who visit 40 people a week.

Volunteers go shopping, mow lawns, fix lights or just have a cup of tea and a chat with their “charges”.

David Harmsworth, 75, who helps run the scheme, said a large part of the group’s efforts were spent on simply befriending people. He said: “People are growing older, but remaining fiercely independent.

“They won’t ask for help, but when they open up to you, they tell you they are lonely.

“We say ‘you provide the biscuits and we’ll provide the chat’.

“We have found quite a lot of people benefit from it, and once they get to know you they really look forward to it.

“It provides a link with the outside world which is essential.”

One woman, who uses the service but did not want to be named, said having a friend come over for a chat and to help out with odd jobs had been “wonderful”.

The 90-year-old, who is partially blind and lives alone, said: “Unless I can find someone to take me out, I’m housebound.

“My family do as much as they possibly can but there is a lot that I need doing.”

The group is taking a growing number of referrals from the John Radcliffe and other hospitals as well as charities like Age UK.

Mr Harmsworth said: “We get a call saying ‘we have a patient here, we are about to discharge, can you lend them a hand?’”

But he added: “Some people still don’t even know we’re here.”

Michael Kovari, a scientist at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), has been volunteering for a year-and-a-half and visits three elderly women regularly.

The married father of two boys said: “Some of them are quite close to their families, but three or four days without seeing anybody is a long time.

“We try as far as possible to do all the help ourselves – gardening, shopping or whatever.

“Other organisations tend to ‘signpost’ people to other services; we try to be the end of that process.”

The 53-year-old added: “Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of befriending an old lady, just sitting down and chatting, but it isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

“Anyone who is unsure about it is welcome to come along and try it out.”

  • Those interested in volunteering can call Mr Harmsworth on 07956 019611 or email gns.nea@gmail.com

 

 

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