An older woman smiles as she relaxes and shares a memory with a carer on the computer.

Befriending

Once you reach a certain age, you may find yourself spending more time on your own. Eventually, you may fall out of touch with former co-workers and acquaintances. Then you may lose your partner or your children might put down roots elsewhere. If you are not adequately prepared or supported, this transition could become a real challenge.

Befriending is one way to stay connected if you find yourself in a position where social interactions don't happen on a regular basis. Many organisations and charities offer befriending services to help you stay in touch with the people around you.

What is befriending?

Befriending services are usually offered by volunteers within a local community. Through these services, a befriender will schedule a regular visit with you at your home (or even call you on the telephone) and spend time with you.

As a link to the outside world, a befriender can also help you find the practical support you may need so you can stay independent and healthy. Activities with a befriender can include popping out for a coffee or going on other small errands that build your personal feelings of connectivity and wellbeing.

Finding the right befriending service for you

These befriending resources might be of interest to you.

General services

Age UK has localised befriending home visit options as well as a telephone service. There is also befriending for people with dementia.

Age Trust offers care and support for the elderly, specifically in the form of befriending.

Friends of the Elderly has both telephone and home visiting befriending services, as well as a portal for people who want practical information on how to get started as befriending volunteers.

Independent Age provides telephone and visiting befriending services for older people. They have resources to assist with issues ranging from housing options, financial advice, health and planning for later life and much more.

The NHS website has a useful section offering practical advice for those either experiencing loneliness themselves or for people looking to offer assistance to someone within their local community. There are also links to independent organisations that offer help and support.​

The Royal Voluntary Service has a “Good Neighbours” scheme for older people that includes a weekly visit or phone call, as well as help with practical things that may need to be done.

Specialised services

Befriending Networks is a resource with training and advice for people interested in befriending and respects the importance of people staying connected no matter what their age, disability, background or race.

Opening Doors reaches out to members of the LGBT community who may feel isolated and lonely. The organisation currently operates in every London borough and offers invitations to many different social activities, depending on what you may prefer.

People First has compiled an extensive list of useful links to organisations offering befriending services.

Scope offers a resource for people with disabilities to find local befriending services that can provide both emotional and practical support.

Jewish befriending

Throughout the country, synagogues have welfare boards that look after members of the community. Most synagogues will offer a befriending service for those in need and will check in annually with all members of the congregation. Contact your local synagogue to find out if such a service is available in your community.

In North West London, Jewish Care offers a bespoke befriending service where coordinators will match you with a befriending volunteer. After each visit, the befriender will always confirm your wellbeing. If additional support is needed, you'll be referred to a team of dedicated social workers who will take any action, if necessary. Jewish Care also has a telephone befriending service that will reach out to you for a friendly chat on a weekly basis. To find out more about Jewish Care's befriending services, contact Jewish Care Direct at 0208 922 2222.

If you'd like to become a befriender with Jewish Care, read more about how to volunteer and participate in your community.

Why wait?

It’s becoming more important than ever to have strong support systems in place. And with a befriending service, there's no reason for you to feel invisible or isolated. Whatever your needs might be—maybe a companion to pop by and visit, or a phone call from a familiar voice every week—befriending is a service to bear in mind.

Staying connected with the outside world is more than just keeping up with gossip and current affairs; it’s about feeling part of a community and staying healthy and independent for as long as possible.

Here’s to making new friends!

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