During this turbulent year, the elderly population has been affected the most. Not only are the elderly more susceptible to COVID-19, but shielding has impacted them. Many found it hard as clubs and social events were not attended, alongside struggles using online video-calling platforms. Loneliness became a second pandemic. However, local charity Age Concern was there to help.  

Age Concern has been supporting the elderly and their families across Colchester, Tendring District and Witham. They provide many services aside from general advice. These include “The Veranda Hub” which brings those in later life together through social interaction and physical exercises, as well as a local service directory. However, their emphasis is on support with home assistance, emotional support for those facing Bereavement and support for those affected by Dementia.

An ever-growing number of people needed the charity’s work. Age Concern moved their Befriending service to over the phone where clients could talk to their Befriender with ease. Through this service, they have been able to link clients to other Age Concern support systems or signpost to other agencies. For extra support, they also extended their bereavement offering and set up a Dementia support line.

Their Befriending service provides older citizens with a connection to local friendships and community support. Age Concern match up over-60’s with a befriender who will call them for an hour a week. With loneliness growing each year, this service is significant for the older generation living within areas of Essex. According to ONS 2019, there are an estimated 82,464 people aged 65+ living in Colchester, Tendring and Witham with 50% of the over 75’s living alone. Age Concern aims to combat this loneliness and exclusion through Befriending. 95% of clients, saying “(they) feel less isolated and lonely” after using it.

One couple, Ron and Margaret, note that “they really enjoy (their) conversations with David”. The couple used to visit Sainsbury’s to maintain their social lives, but they couldn’t due to COVID-19. After joining the service, Margaret talked of her Befriender saying, “ I look forward to his calls, and I would like them to carry on.”

However, even without the pandemic, people are isolated due to reduced mobility, anxiety, and health problems. If you would like to help, Age Concern is looking for Befriender volunteers. You need to be over 18 and able to call at least 1 hour a week. Upon contacting Age Concern, you will be subject to a DBS check and online training. They are especially looking for male Befrienders or people who can speak a language other than English – though they welcome everyone.

Or, you can offer a donation to support their work. It can be one-off or set up as a monthly or annual donation. If you wish to donate, please contact the charity on 01206 368420 or enquiries@ageconcerncolchester.org.uk.

If you’re over 60 and are struggling at all, Age Concern is here for you. The Befriending service is still available if you think you will benefit from it, contact the lovely team and they will help you.