Can you offer companionship through the winter?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 January 2012 | UPDATED: 08:39 16 January 2012

Volunteers give just a few hours of their week to speak to elderly people

Volunteers give just a few hours of their week to speak to elderly people

Age UK Somerset

WINTER can be a lonely time of year for those without friends or family close at hand.

With many elderly people alone, isolated or housebound, Age UK Somerset is hoping to raise vital funds for its appeal to make the shortest days of the year a less daunting time for them.

The charity’s Together service means older people in Weston and North Somerset can get an important visit from a ‘special friend’ – a trained volunteer who can offer companionship through the darkest months of the year.

Mary Cassertari spends an hour a week with an elderly lady in Weston, doing no more than having a chat and a cup of tea with her.

She said: “Keeping people who would otherwise be alone is very important, especially at this time of the year when we can all feel a bit blue.

“Sometimes the person might not get out of the house, and so just being there to talk to can be very important to them. I find it very rewarding.”

Another volunteer in North Somerset, Clare Fraley, got involved after retiring as a specialist nurse.

She said: “I like the older generation and felt I could give a lot of help to them.

“So many people live alone now and don’t have the opportunity to discuss things with other people and give their opinion.

“We talk about their health, interests from their past lives, families, news stories, the weather, general talk really.

“The idea is to enable them to get socialised again, perhaps if they have been unwell or lost their independence somehow.

“We try to get them into lunch clubs, get them out and about and away from the same four walls.”

Speaking of the campaign’s importance, the charity’s chief executive Libby Lisgo said: “Many older people in Somerset and North Somerset are affected by isolation and loneliness and a visit from one of our volunteer befrienders can be the highlight of their week and something to look forward to.

“Although the visits are carried out by our team of volunteers we need to help cover the cost of the expenses incurred by these volunteers.

“A donation of just £4 a month can cover the costs of four weekly visits and a donation of £48 can mean that an isolated and lonely person can receive a visit every week for a year. This service is so important to so many people and we hope that as many of you as possible will support our winter appeal.”

The charity is looking for new helpers, so if you are interested in volunteering or making a donation, phone 01823 345623, email or visit

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