Lonely retiree finds “closest friend” through charity service
Two friends from Wirral encourage others to support the elderly and fight against loneliness.
Maggie Gaskell and Eileen Dewhurst have become quick friends over the past few years; confide in and meet regularly.
Their 30-year age gap hasn’t stopped the couple from forming a bond.
Additional efforts and campaigns are launched each Christmas to end the isolation and loneliness that plague many older generations. However, as the New Year begins, it’s important to remember that support is as vital now as it was during the holiday season.
Age UK Wirral appeals to more ‘friends’; volunteers who will devote part of their time to an elderly person.
Covid doesn’t have to be a limiting factor, with the ability to volunteer one day a week to deliver a business over the phone also being available.
A friend and mother of two, Maggie has visited 92-year-old Eileen Dewhurst for more than two years. She first contacted the local charity HelpLink, which is now part of Age UK Wirral.
Maggie said: “When my father was in poor health towards the end of his life, I was not able to visit him and my mother in East Yorkshire as much as I would have liked.
“I volunteered as a friend because I could easily devote a few hours a week to someone who was homebound locally. “
Now, Maggie’s visits have changed Eileen’s life for the better.
Eileen said: “I can’t imagine my life without Maggie and now I consider her to be my closest friend.”
What started out as fortnightly visits turned into more as Eileen was welcomed into Maggie’s family, going on a trip and visiting her family home.
Maggie said: “Her career as a novelist and her background in journalism have provided endless compelling stories.
“Spending time with Eileen showed me how society often tends to ignore older people instead of respecting and enjoying their experiences.”
Much of Age UK Wirral’s work is to fight against isolation and loneliness. There is evidence that suffering from loneliness can impact other problems and may contribute to earlier death, charity bosses say.
Age UK Wirral CEO Jamie Anderson said: “The Covid pandemic has only served to intensify people’s experiences of loneliness through the various restrictions. Winter is adding to these pressures as the nights are longer. gloomy and colder weather make it more difficult for people to maintain social contact.
“We encourage everyone to think about the greatest gift they can give – the gift of their time.”
Nationally, ITV’s annual Good Morning Britain ‘1 Million Minutes’ campaign wrapped up last week. In its sixth year of efforts to end people’s loneliness, the campaign has called on the British public to donate time to charities looking for volunteers to support those who are alone.
A total of 166,028,640 minutes have been pledged and the success of the campaign will benefit many across the country who are feeling lonely this winter.
When asked what Maggie has brought to her life, Eileen simply replied, “The heat. “
If you, too, would like to bring some warmth to someone’s winter, you can find more information here.