Everyone can feel lonely now and again. But as we get older and friends and relatives move away, or we suffer a bereavement of a loved one, being at home on our own can be especially difficult. Health problems or other circumstances can make it hard to get out and about, stay in touch with people, or form new friendships. If this happens it can then be difficult to tell others that you are feeling lonely.
Various organisations offer 'befriending' services where a volunteer will regularly visit an older person, or someone with a health problem, in their own home, or will phone them for a chat. The arrangement is based on friendship and there is no payment involved. The idea is that the volunteer befriender will get as much out of meeting the person in their home as the person does out of meeting the befriender.
Getting to know a new person who takes an interest in you and your life can improve your mood and confidence greatly, and make you feel listened to and part of the community again.
Different organisations offer befriending support for people in different circumstances - have a look at the organisations below and see if there is someone out there who could offer support to you.
The St Vincent de Paul Society
The St Vincent de Paul Society arranges volunteers who can visit elderly and other vulnerable people at home or in hospitals and hospices, in residential homes, and in offender institutes. The volunteers offer company and contact for people, and can assist with practical tasks such as shopping, decorating, gardening, filling in official forms and ensuring people receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
The society has produced a leaflet with more information on the support which they can offer.
Opening Doors London runs a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender befriending project for older LGBT men and women who may be more isolated and cut off from society in general and specifically from the LGBT community.
Befriending Plus is a befriending service for people who are over 65 and living alone, and whose GP is based in the Central London area.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 604 8818 for more information.
Age UK arrange befriending services for older people in many areas - contact their local office for more information:-
Alternatively visit the Age UK website or call Age UK's national telephone friendship service, Call in Time, on 0800 434 6105 (Freephone).
Scotscare provide all sorts of support, including a befriending service for older people, for Scottish people living in London.
The Irish Chaplaincy in Britain
The Irish Chaplaincy in Britain provides befriending and other support for older Irish people living in London.
Mind - befriending for people with mental health problems
For information about befriending services especially for people with mental health problems, you can contact your local branch of MIND.
The Octavia Foundation
Neighbourcare is a befriending organisation offering a range of services to people, especially older people, living in NW8, W9, and nearby areas in Westminster. They have several Spanish speakers amongst their team of volunteers.
Tel 0207 586 5153
In-Deep offer a befriending / home visiting scheme for older people living in South Westminster, and a range of other social activities.
Henna Befriending Service
Henna Asian Women's Group runs a befriending service which is open to all individuals who are in need of extra help to improve their social circle. They will reach out to the most vulnerable individuals that live anywhere in London.
Find out more:-
- A leaflet for people who want to use the befriending service
- A leaflet for possible volunteers to help provide the service
- A poster about the service
The Royal Voluntary Service
The Royal Voluntary Service organise befrienders for older people across the United Kingdom.
Alzheimer's Society Side by Side Service
Alzheimer's Society's Side by Side is a volunteer-led befriending service which helps people living with dementia to continue to play active roles in their communities. The service helps them to lead fulfilling lives, and reduces loneliness and isolation.
DeafBlind UK offer a befriending service for people with combined sight ad hearing loss.
The Abbey Housemates scheme, based at the Abbey Centre in Westminster, provides volunteers who can be a friendly face to older people, visit them in their own homes, and help them get to the Abbey Centre to join in fun activities.
runs the Befriending an older person project where volunteers are matched with older people and visit them regularly.
The Passage match former rough sleepers who may be socially isolated with volunteers from all over London. Partnerships can last up to a year and support tenancy sustainment by linking people into local services and setting goals.
There are an increasing number of schemes allowing older people to stay in touch over the phone, either through regular one-to-one chats, or as part of conversation groups.
Call in Time from Age UK
Age UK's Call in Time telephone befriending service includes weekly Friendship Calls, and Good Day Calls which can take place several times per week.
Open Age phone groups
Open Age run group activities over the phone where callers can join a small, friendly group of people. Discussions range from current affairs to films, healthcare to quizzes. The activities are chosen by the group and facilitated by an Open Age staff member, and all calls are free.
Be On Hand Telephone Befriending
Be On Hand provides a befriending scheme and can also help with minor errands. Call 0203 488 2912
The Silver Line Telephone Friend service for older people connects you with someone to have a weekly chat to in the comfort of your own home.
The Silver Line Circles is a facilitated group telephone calls where people with shared interests can discuss topics that interest them with a wider group.
Both services can be accessed via their number which is: 0800 4 70 80 90.