As Age Concern Lancashire launches its What the Flock campaign, a volunteer reveals how important it is to be part of the charity's befriender scheme.
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Kate Rosindale, 37, of Ashton, has been a befriender with Age Concern since last year and has struck up a strong friendship with 95-year-old Freda, from Plungington.
She says: “Having felt loneliness before, it breaks my heart to know what a huge problem it is in today’s society.
“It’s not just imagining all those people feeling so empty and alone, it’s knowing what an impact that will be having on their physical and mental health and therefore on our communities.
“For me, befriending is a small but meaningful way to try to help with this.
“Freda lives with chronic pain that is caused by arthritis and a trapped nerve.
“Freda’s son had learning difficulties and lived with her until he died in 2017, aged 57.
“She catches up weekly with her sister but it has to be over the phone rather than in person, even though they are only a mile apart, because they are both housebound. She looks forward to seeing her brother who visits from down south every few months.
“There are a couple of family members who regularly come to see Freda, and she occasionally gets out to the shops with their help.
“Despite all this, Freda’s days are long and lonely.
“Can you imagine what it’s like, spending day after day staring at the same four walls and struggling to even move freely around your own home?
“As Freda’s befriender, I visit on a weekly basis during my Friday lunch hour.
“Through this small window I see how hard life can be for her at times.
“I’d describe visiting Freda as humbling, thought-provoking and sometimes upsetting. But it’s also uplifting, fun and good for the soul.
“During the past year and a half, Freda and I have become more than members of a befriending service; we have become friends.
“Never mind the 58-year age gap - we have a natter, we catch up about what’s been going on in our lives and in the world, and we love doing jigsaws together.
“Occasionally there are tears, usually of frustration, but we always end up in fits of giggles at least once or twice during our hour together.
“For me it’s interesting to speak to Freda about her life in days gone by – from her growing up in the 1920s to living through the war, and from her role as a mother to four children to her many varied jobs including confectioner and bus conductor.
“I know Freda thinks about the past a lot. She can’t believe how she’s ended up like this, housebound, when she remembers all the things she used to love doing, like swimming, dancing and walking round the markets.
“I know Freda has felt lonelier since her son died.
“She misses having someone to talk to, especially in the winter.
“She tries to do little bits, like cleaning and ironing, to keep herself occupied and stave off the boredom. She’s a fan of TV soaps, but she doesn’t like reading because she falls asleep, so if there’s nothing good on TV she’ll just go to bed.
“A lot of the time Freda feels like there’s nothing to look forward to.
“At least I know my weekly visit does give her that. She tells me it makes a big difference to have a visit as it’s a bit of company and it helps pass the day on.
“It’s always hard to leave Freda because I know I’m leaving her on her own again.
“But I try to focus on the positive impact of the time we spend together, and on the friendship that we have built, despite how “different our lives are.
“I’d like to finish by saying how proud I am to be involved in the befriending service, but more than anything how proud I am to call Freda my friend.”