Loneliness affects all of us at some point in our lives.
Read more about loneliness in Lancashire: www.lep.co.uk/your-lancashire/fylde-coast/lancashire-is-loneliness-hotspot-1-8235917
Relocating to a new area, losing a loved one, family living away or lack of contact with friends.
But for a growing number of people, particularly those in later life, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on their health and well being.
One former health professional determined to ‘make a world of difference’ to a part of her local community is Marjorie Hayward and her befriending organisation “Friends for You.”
With a willing group of volunteers, the home visit service, launched towards the end of 2016, is now helping more than 50 lonely people a week in Chorley, with an ever growing list of referrals.
Such has been the call for the organisation’s help Marjorie has already extended the organisation’s reach to Adlington and Eccleston with a pilot scheme due to start this year in Preston.
Marjorie, a retired course leader in health at the University of Central Lancashire and a former health visitor, says: “It was on a particularly lonely drive home through the countryside from my daughters’ it struck me how many people out there in the community for who that feeling of loneliness was ever present, no physical contact with the outside world for weeks on end.
“For some of the people using Friends for You that is very real - imagine having nobody to visit you. Nobody crossing your doorstep.
“Nobody to call for a chat. Nobody to help you when you are struggling.
“Some of our clients aren’t on their own because they have no family, a lot of them do. But in these modern times, families more and more are separated by distance and time.
“It’s particularly the elderly and infirm who then become isolated in their own homes.
“It’s very emotional but amazing to see what has been achieved in the last 16 months. The letters for referrals come in daily but I am well aware I’m still only scratching at the tip of the surface.”
Marjorie says the statistics gathered in studies by charity AgeUK show 11 per cent of older people can go up to a month without seeing another person.
A recent review of such studies show 3.6million older people in the UK live alone and of those people 1.9 million of them often feel ignored or invisible.
“The need for befriending is greater then ever and we need as many volunteers as possible to help me reach out to every lonely, isolated or vulnerable person in Chorley and the surrounding districts."
Marjorie has 20 volunteers, from all walks of life, who undertake a training programme, facilitated by the organisation and in partnership with Nelson and Colne College.
Volunteers also meet regularly for case study sessions at Tatton Community Centre in Chorley, where they share progress and knowledge of their experiences.
“For the service to work, it has to be consistent, it has to be professional but ultimately that person has to get something out of it - so far the feedback has only been positive.
“I am proud this is where the organisation is able to make a difference but also feel very privileged that a small team of people have been able to bring about huge changes to these people and make them feel that bit better about the world for just one day a week. That’s what a friend can do.”
Marjorie is currently leading a recruitment drive for additional volunteers to accommodate further referrals.
“We have 20 people currently and I have another three ready to undergo their training at the end of this month but the more people we have coming forward to join us makes our reach so much greater.
“We can’t completely change the world, but we can make a world of difference to one person through one visit a week.”
For more information, visit the organisation’s page www.facebook.com/FriendsForYouChorley