Sitting in her chair, Florence hadn’t seen Jane yet. Enjoying a slice of fruit cake and remaining very still, Florence’s eyes were trained on the door. She knew Jane was about to walk through it.
“Hello”, Jane called. Just one word, and yet it was enough for Florence’s face to completely light up, knowing that her ‘little sister’ was back.
The Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP) helps older and vulnerable people to live independently and re-establish links with their community that they may have lost through ill health or other personal circumstances. HELP’s Opening Doors project invites volunteers to accompany older people on a one-to-one basis to where they want to go.
This can include social outings to theatres and garden centres. When an elderly person wants a more regular volunteer befriender, HELP tries to match them up to someone with mutual interests.
The Harrogate Advertiser went to meet Florence Povey, 92, and Harrogate Easier Living Project volunteer befriender Jane Lishman, for the latest installment of the Ending Loneliness campaign.
Florence lives with mild dementia and moved to Harrogate from her home in Kent following the loss of one of her children. Although she is now nearer to her son, Florence was experiencing feelings of loneliness when she came to the district, and found it hard to integrate into the community.
For almost a year now, however, Florence has enjoyed the company of Jane through HELP’s Opening Doors project. They go out together whenever they can for Sunday lunches, visits to garden centres, and they have even enjoyed the occasional opera.
Asking Florence just how much Jane’s support means to her, she beamed and said: “Jane is my life, she is absolutely unbelievable. I call her my little sister. She makes all the difference to me, and without her I wouldn’t be able to live independently.
“Loneliness is the worst thing to have to cope with, and I enjoy going out with Jane so much. She took me all around the Dales, it was my first experience of it.
“I would be lost without her.”
Jane said: “The thing about loneliness is that the trick to it is to have something to look forward to. I’ve enjoyed finding out what Florence likes to do, and getting to know each other.
“Any time spent alone is very difficult for her. She has got a need for social contact.
“When I take Florence out, I call it the Florence experience, because there is no one like her. We get on so well.
“The best antidote to loneliness I know is volunteering. People say that volunteers are our lifesavers, but to me volunteering is a lifesaver.”
For Florence’s son Brian, and daughter-in-law Jackie, HELP’s Opening Doors service has provided an invaluable support.
Jackie said: “It has been transformational for us as a family, we can’t stress that enough. It just makes us so happy knowing that Florence is doing things and is happy.”
If you are interested in volunteering for the Harrogate Easier Living Project and would like to befriend someone like Jane has, or you would like the company of a volunteer, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01423 813090.