Independent Age
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Independent Age

International Day of Friendship: When Hannah met Gwen

As our volunteering services adapt over time to continually offer the best support to older people looking to remain independent, we love hearing about past befriending matches that have taken their relationship beyond the weekly phone calls.

For International Day of Friendship, Hannah told us about how Gwen became such a big part of her life after being matched through Independent Age.

A young woman and an older woman smile at the camera together.

Gwen and I were matched to become telephone friends back in October of 2018. It was an unlikely match — an 89-year-old being matched with a 32-year-old — but we clicked immediately. I signed up after the loss of my grandmother; I loved our chats and have always enjoyed talking to and learning from the older generation. It was quite a spooky beginning because Gwen had hints of a Norfolk accent, which is where Grandma was from. And she was married to a Jack — the name of both my Grandad and my brother!

We speak every week, on a Thursday at 5.30pm and, over time, have really built a strong friendship. Gwen has told me so much about her life, being a pub landlady, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We also talk about animals and our shared love for dogs, and I get weekly updates about her gorgeous budgie, Jacky. Gwen has the best sense of humour and always has a story to tell — we both agree that laughter is the best medicine. She loves to hear about my baking business and, over the years, has been very inquisitive about my most popular cakes, wishing she could sample them.

At the beginning of the year, Independent Age let us know that we could transition our friendship to a more conventional one where, if we wanted to, we could arrange to meet up. I have had contact with Gwen’s daughter, Margaret, so we set a date for my parents and I to make the two-hour drive to finally meet in person in April. It was the most special day, lots of hugs, a few tears, laughter — and cake! It was like we had all known each other forever, very easy and enjoyable. Gwen even told my mum that I was hers now! We all laughed at how my mum became the budgie whisperer, since Jacky took a real shine to her. And, to my relief, Gwen thoroughly enjoyed the lemon drizzle loaf I baked for her — praise indeed, because I know she’d have been honest with me either way!

A young woman and an older woman sit on a sofa laughing together. In front of them is an open box of cakes.

Gwen says of the experience; “If it weren’t for Independent Age, I wouldn’t have met Hannah. Now I’ve met her, it’s a lot better, I don’t know how to explain it. But now I know what she looks like, it’s nice to put a face to a voice. Hannah is a lovely girl and I look forward to speaking to her. It was nice to be able to meet all her family. They’re fantastic and it was just as though we had known each other for years and years. Hannah made me lovely cake. It was a lemon cake. She does a lot of cupcakes too. They are out of this world. They are so pretty.”

Reflecting on her time as a volunteer, Hannah shares; “This scheme has such a huge impact on people’s lives, not just for the older person but for the volunteers, too. I look forward to our weekly catch-ups — through lockdowns, especially, they were something in the diary to focus on. It has had such a positive impact on both of our lives. I am truly thankful for Gwen coming into my life.”

If you’re interested in volunteering with Independent Age, check out our available volunteering opportunities here: Volunteering opportunities | Independent Age

We are currently recruiting for Community Services Volunteers in the North East, Essex and Nottingham. You can read more about this volunteering role and how to apply here: Volunteer in your local community | Independent Age

In Essex, Nottingham and Tyne & Wear, we’ve recently launched our new Telephone Group Facilitator roles. Our Telephone Friendship Groups are free telephone-based social groups for anyone over the age of 65. The groups are especially good for older people who may struggle with feelings of loneliness or isolation, and are perhaps without the internet, housebound or unable to engage in face-to-face activities. Your role in these group calls is to help older people to build local connections with their peers, forging new friendships and tackling feelings of isolation and loneliness. Your weekly calls will be at a set time each week, for one hour, and within the hours of 11am — 6pm. After 6 months, we will give you or your group members the training or tools to manage friendships independently of us. If you’re interested in running a telephone group with Independent Age, please contact telephone.services@independentage.org to find out more.

www.independentage.org/get-involved/volunteering/telephone-group-facilitator

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