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Loneliness busters! Young and old help each other through pandemic with online chats

Charity’s one-to-one friendship programme helps residents to connect

06 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Sarath Thenabadu (left) and Andy Naylor from North London Cares on a one-to-one Zoom call during the Covid crisis

A CHARITY working to tackle loneliness says many of their younger members have gained a sense of perspective from volunteering with the elderly during the coronavirus crisis.

North London Cares are holding online meet-ups, organising activities to do at home and offering technology support to elderly people so they can get to grips with email and Zoom videocalls during the Covid lockdowns.

A one-to-one friendship programme connects elderly residents with younger people for conversations or letter sharing.

Founder Alex Smith said: “What we have learned is that younger people have appreciated their relationships with older people.

“It works both ways. We have seen increased amounts of anxiety among younger people during the first lockdown and lots of older people are helping younger people get perspective and patience.”

Alex Smith, founder of North London Cares

The charity is calling for more volunteers to sign up to join the friendship programme through phone calls and post.

“My fear has been that in crises, often there is massive solidarity at the beginning followed by a drop off and despair,” said Mr Smith.

“I think we need to latch on to the need of staying together and helping others.

“We bring older and younger people together to reduce loneliness but we do more than that as well. This lockdown [starting yesterday, Thursday] we are redoubling our efforts to make sure older people can be better connected to communities but also to do the same thing with younger people.

“Lots of students are locked up in their halls, lots of people are working from home for the first time and what we are seeing is increased loneliness and anxiety.”

Sarah Marshall, 49, is from Islington and volunteers with North London Cares, pairing up with 82-year-old Marion Madigan.

She said: “We’ve had weekly chats through lockdown, and she never ceases to amaze me and make me cry laughing with her tales of life.”

Ms Madigan has been involved for over two years and attended face-to-face social clubs before the lockdown with Ms Marshall.

“We have had some good times and laughs together,” she said. “I would like to say a big thank you to Sarah for keeping me sane.”

For more information about North London Cares go to https://northlondoncares.org.uk/home

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