South Liverpool Linking Lives combatting loneliness and isolation

We spoke to Hannah from South Liverpool Linking Lives on how the befriending service was set up to help end loneliness and isolation in older people in Liverpool, by matching them with a new friend to chat with.

The idea for South Liverpool Linking Lives first came about after a member of Mossley Hill Church became aware of the extent of isolation facing older people through an article in a magazine and hearing about a Befriending scheme her daughter was volunteering for in a different city. She realised there was a need for such a service in Liverpool, so approached the church’s Rector about setting it up. We have since joined together with Imagine If Trust, based in Wavertree, to cover the whole of the South Liverpool area. 

Our main aim is to help end loneliness and isolation in older people in Liverpool, by matching them with a new friend to chat to. 
  
We realised quickly there was a big need for the service in the community when we started getting lots of referrals throughout the area – including from people who were referring themselves to the service. Many older people had found themselves in a position where they had become isolated due to bereavement, disabilities that had left them housebound, and/or family members living far away. Some of them would go more than a week without speaking to another person. This was having a huge impact on their mental and physical health. We have seen the huge difference in people after they have been matched with a volunteer, from having something to look forward to each, someone who cares about them, and a reminder they still matter. 
 
The need for the service has also increased this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, where loneliness has become even rifer.
How can people get involved if they would like to help?
Volunteers need to attend training, provide two references and have a DBS check (which we will arrange and is at no cost to themselves). They will then be matched with one older person (based on personality, interests and location) who they will visit once a week or fortnight for around an hour, for a chat.

Volunteers can also accompany their friend out for short trips, for example to a local café or garden centre, if they wish. Of course, our befriending service is experiencing some changes at the moment due to the coronavirus, which means that visits have been temporarily replaced by socially distant befriending! For the most part, this involves a weekly phone call, however we will chat to all volunteers and referrals about their preferred methods of contact, and this could also include communicating by letter, email, text or video chat. 

We are always in need of more volunteers to match the demand for the service, and would love to hear from anyone who could volunteer for just one hour a week or fortnight! You can send us an email to southliverpool@linkinglives.uk or call 07858570301 if you would like any more information or to sign up. 
 
Let’s hear some of the befriending stories
Richard signed up to volunteer with us in 2018 and was matched with a gentleman who had become isolated due to dementia and hearing difficulties, which made maintaining a social life a challenge. Richard started visiting this gentleman once a week for games of chess, which had been a favourite hobby of his friend for much of his life and has proved a fun activity for both men.  

Richard says, “I find volunteering for Linking Lives so rewarding. What better way to spend time than making a positive difference in someone's life? It is certainly not any effort or inconvenience. I love visiting and spending time with my new friend.” 
 
Nesta, 90, was referred to the service by one of her sons after her husband passed away. Having lived a very full life, Nesta was struggling with isolation now that her friendship circle was diminishing and she found it more difficult to get out of the house. She was matched with a volunteer, Tricia, in 2018 – and the pair have struck up a great friendship.  

Nesta says, “It feels great to get out of the house. Trish will pick me up and we go visit a garden centre or go to a cafe. And she calls every week to check on me. I think Linking Lives is a great idea. Before, I could go for a week and not see anyone. That was hard.”

You can read more of their story here. 

Another quote from a referral: 
"I love chatting to her and we always have a laugh. The age difference doesn't matter at all - we've become really good friends!" 

And this one from a volunteer: 
“At the end of our phone call, she told me it was the best conversation she’d had in as long as she could remember and how she’d even forgotten about the lockdown. I put the phone down and cried. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done!"