Social lifeline in phone calls

An older person from Wetherby says weekly phone calls have given her the strength to keep going during the pandemic despite being isolated and housebound.

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 9:06 am

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, started speaking to telephone befriender Christine Hardman from Wetherby in Support of the Elderly (WiSE) when lockdown first hit last spring.

She said the charity’s support has given her a vital lifeline during a time of incredible isolation, anxiety and stress.

“I started speaking to Christine soon after the first lockdown in March last year,” she said.

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“I now speak to her every week and it’s something I’ve come to rely upon. It’s doing me a lot of good simply to talk to someone. It’s keeping me strong and keeping me going.

“I know the pandemic hasn’t been easy for lots of people, but it’s affected me very deeply.

“I really worry about the virus and avoid the news wherever possible.

“I’m hoping to be in the next round of vaccinations, but the situation is still causing me panic and stress which my doctor is supporting me with.

“Loneliness isn’t new to me - I live alone and am housebound by various ailments. I’m lucky to have animals for company and have also recently started taking an interest in the television.”

She added: “I’ve always considered myself a friendly a sociable person though, so the phone calls have become something of a necessity for me.

“They also act as a lifeline because if anything needs fixing around the house - even a lightbulb changing - the charity can arrange for it to be done.”

Christine manages the Wise Owl Cafe a community cafe for WiSE, but became a telephone befriender when the café had to close as part of national Covid-19 restrictions. She now chats to isolated older people once a week.

“Everyone at the charity would love to be able to offer face-to-face support and we hope to be in a position to restore some of our key services later this year,” said Christine.

“But I’ve found it a real privilege speaking to all of my callers and always look forward to the chat.

“It’s quite bizarre that after all these months I haven’t met any of them yet, but hope most of them will manage a trip to the memory café when circumstances allow us to open it again.”

The charity, part funded by Leeds City Council, aims to improve life for the over 60s through activities and help.

Since the pandemic began, staff and volunteers at WiSE have made more than 4,000 wellbeing to keep older people safe and interacted with.

It was recently presented with a special award by the Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun Eileen Taylor in recognition of its efforts during the pandemic so far.

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