Michael joined us for our Christmas Day Lunch for the first time in 2017. It was a complete change for him and he said the company did him good as he spends a lot of time on his own.
Like many of our members, feelings of loneliness and isolation aren’t just experienced at Christmas. Having lost his wife a few years ago, Michael would spend most of his days on his own at home with his cat. He was his wife’s main carer during her illness so over the years he had become increasingly disconnected with his community and lacked social contact. He was caught in an isolated trap and needed help finding his way out. Through our Christmas lunches we get to find out about and meet many people like Michael. The lunches are a great catalyst for enabling us to provide further support to people who are lonely.
We spoke to Michael about our Buddy Scheme and he was instantly interested! Our Buddy Scheme is all about helping our members find out about nice social activities and groups and giving them a helping hand to join in. This helping hand comes in the form of a volunteer ‘Buddy’ who is trained by us to provide support. There is a lot to offer in Bristol and the surrounding area but it can be difficult for people to find out what is going on, or have the motivation to get out and about and meet new people. This is where our Buddies come in.
Michael was matched with one of our great volunteers, Alison. Alison said how much she enjoyed her visits to Michael. Living in a small village in South Glos, she was a little sceptical about finding activities in Michael’s area but was pleasantly surprised to find out how much there was to offer. Alison found a lunch club that Michael enjoys going along to and he’s even taken up a new hobby of indoor bowling in a community hall. Physically this can be a bit challenging for him but he is really positive about meeting and chatting to the friendly people there. They run a gentle exercise class too which Michael is considering joining.
Talking with Alison has encouraged Michael to reignite his trips to the cinema and go along to a pub for lunch on Sundays. He’s even thinking about buying a tablet computer and enrolling onto a computer course in September. Michael worked as a gardening groundsman for Bristol Zoo for 40 years and is still a keen gardener. He needs help with his garden now but is still keen to do some potting and enjoys spending time outside.
When asked what difference Alison’s support has had for Michael he said how he would have easily slipped back as quick as lightening [to being lonely] if he hadn’t have had her help. He is grateful for being giving a friendly push to keep going and feels much better for being able to do more and have interests again. Otherwise he would have just ‘sat in his chair and just fade away.’
As for Alison, she is delighted that Michael has taken on so many new activities and says that seeing Michael happier and looking to the future has made her Buddy time really worthwhile.
Our Buddy Scheme is currently being run as a small pilot project but we hope to expand it if we get further funding. Please contact us if you’d like to find out more.