The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has praised a scheme that is helping to tackle loneliness and isolation among older people living in rural Monmouthshire.
The Commissioner’s team attended a special event that celebrated the success of Community Connections’ Befriending Scheme at Llandogo Millennium Hall.
Over 50 volunteer befrienders and older people, some of whom have become befrienders themselves after using the service, watched a short film and exhibition about the scheme before sharing ideas of how the project can be sustained when funding runs out in two years’ time.
The Befriending Scheme was launched in 2012 following a successful bid for five years of funding from the Big Lottery Fund and aims to help people aged 50+ from rural areas around Monmouth, Abergavenny, Raglan, Usk, Chepstow and Caldicot, who may be lonely and socially isolated.
Volunteers are recruited, trained and supported to help older people who have recently suffered bereavement, need help getting out to the shops or to community activities, are retired farmers in isolated areas, or would simply like company.
Community Connections is also piloting a car scheme in which older people cover the costs for volunteers to drive them or accompany them to the shops or to appointments at places like the hospital or doctor’s surgery.
The Commissioner, Sarah Rochira, said: “The value of services such as Community Connections’ Befriending Scheme cannot be underestimated, with their impact perhaps more keenly felt in rural areas, such as Monmouthshire, where older people are at a higher risk of becoming lonely and isolated because of the dispersed nature of the population.
“Many of the people that use this service would not be able to leave their homes without it, which would leave them unable to attend doctor and hospital appointments or to go shopping, meaning they would be at risk of requiring more formal care packages.
“It is also so important to older people’s health and wellbeing that they have something to do and something to look forward to. The friendships formed through this scheme could provide many older people with their only chance to do things most people take for granted, such as chatting to a friendly face or having the confidence to go out to a social club.”
The visit to meet group members formed part of the Commissioner’s Engagement Roadshow, which has met with thousands of older people during the past year.
For further details about the Engagement Roadshow, and to find out more about the work of the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, visit www.olderpeoplewales.com