A CHARITY aiming to make life better for older people has launched a new search for volunteers to help tackle loneliness and isolation.

Age UK Wiltshire wants to recruit at least 100 people across the county to its Wellbeing Programme and other services that spend time with some of the estimated 12,000 people identified as being at risk of loneliness by the charity.

The campaign is looking for people with time to spare not just to chat with older people but to find out about their interests, help them find advice on benefits and services, get them out and about and giving them the strength and confidence to remain independent in their own homes.

Many people approach Age UK Wiltshire directly for help or advice. Family and friends also approach the charity with concerns about someone they know who are isolated and alone or are going through a difficult period in their lives. The charity may be contacted by professionals, including social services, GPs and other charities who are looking for support for someone in need.

Age UK Wiltshire reviews each case it receives a explores each issue individually to find the right support to improve a person’s Wellbeing.

Age UK Wiltshire chief executive Julian Kirby said: “We know that one of the big issues many people are unprepared for as they get older is chronic loneliness and social isolation. This is not just about having someone to talk to. The long-term impact of loneliness and isolation can be devastating on people’s health and wellbeing.

“Older people who are lonely and unconnected are more likely to visit A&E or have an emergency admission; are more likely to develop dementia; are more likely to have depression or suffer from low mood and are more likely to be inactive which increases the risk of developing diabetes or having a stroke. All of this puts increased demand on social care and NHS services at a time when we are all facing financial challenges.”

In the 2011 census the total population of Wiltshire was 470,981 of which 85,488 (18 per cent) were people over age 65. Almost a third of that total lived alone. By 2021 Wiltshire’s total over 65 population is projected to rise to nearly 110,000 ¬– which means the number most at risk of loneliness will also rise.

Mr Kirby said: “People are living longer so the general population is becoming increasingly older. Older people can find themselves isolated and alone as children and grandchildren grow up and families are living further apart.

“Modern technology and social media can help many older people stay connected with their families but there are many more for whom this isn’t an option and who find themselves left behind as the world moves past them.”

The charity’s volunteers, who made 700 visits to people in their own homes last year, can give the people they visit the confidence and resilience to remain living in their own homes, said Mr Kirby. “It’s about not attempting to supply a service we think they need but by getting to know the people they visit, the volunteers can help them connect to activities and interests that reinvigorate their enthusiasm for involvement,” he said.

That could mean taking them to specially-designed fitness classes or groups such as WI or just visiting other friends.

Volunteer Mike Fielding, of Chippenham, has been giving up his time for the charity since 2011. He said he enjoys the regular contact with his clients and is always pleased when his advice or help bears fruit. “I get a great deal of satisfaction when a claim for attendance allowance I’ve helped a client with has been successful,” he said.

“It’s knowing that someone in need will get much-needed funds that they are entitled to. I always find it amazing that people don’t know what they can claim.”

All volunteers receive a full induction to the charity and training for the roles they want to explore. Volunteers are required to attend at least one training session at our offices but where possible the charity will discuss the requirements for each role with individuals to find a path that works for everyone. If a volunteer is looking to expand their role or explore other opportunities, full training and support will be given for people to find the right opportunities for them.

To find out more, call the charity on (01380) 727767, email volunteering@ageukwiltshire.org.uk, or go to ageukwiltshire.org.uk.

Caption: Age UK business support Jo Banks, back left, support services manager Elliot Potter, programmes manager John Truss, chief executive Julian Kirby, Wellbeing Project worker Steve Goodrick, volunteer business support Craig Izatt and volunteer Mike Fielding