Each year at Aldermore, we fundraise for our chosen Charity of the Year. 2018’s charity, Independent Age, which colleagues voted for, was nominated by Laura Franklin in the Asset Finance team in Reading. We caught up with Laura to find out more about Independent Age and her involvement with them.
Can you tell our readers a bit about Independent Age?
Independent Age is a national charity that provides free information and advice for older people and their families on care and support, money and benefits, and health and mobility. Their volunteers visit older people in their homes or call them regularly on the telephone to help reduce loneliness. I’m a telephone volunteer for Independent Age.
What was it that first sparked your interest in Independent Age?
I studied Sociology with Politics at university and I needed to complete a research dissertation in year 3, whilst undertaking a placement in the community department of a local secondary school. There were perceptions from the children that older people couldn’t achieve anything other than being doddery; whilst the older people thought all young people were unruly. I wanted to challenge these stereotypes with my research project by showing them various examples of the opposite scenario.
How did you find engaging with the community?
This was very enlightening, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the older community. This also led me to develop a social club for older people to meet once a week and a computer course designed specifically for older people – these were a great success and the social club is still running! I wanted to continue working with the older community and found volunteering opportunities with Independent Age.
Can you tell us more about your volunteering role?
I am a phone befriender for the charity which means I was assigned an older person, who I phone each week on the same day and at the same time. The idea is that the older person has a guaranteed person to speak with once a week, with the aim of reducing social isolation. I started volunteering around two years ago and I have been assigned my second older person.
How does the relationship work and help the older person?
It is up to the older person as to whether they wish to continue the calls, and my first older person felt they no longer needed the phone calls as they were reconnecting with the outside world and their family. I had phoned this person once a week for a year, so it was very hard to say goodbye, but it was hugely rewarding as I played a part in helping them become more involved in the outside world to the point they felt they didn’t need the support anymore.
Can you tell us a bit more about the conversations and how Independent Age matches you?
As a phone befriender, you’re matched with an older person based on your hobbies, likes and dislikes, the idea being that by matching your interests then the conversation will flow more easily as there is common ground. It is then up to the volunteer and the older person to decide on the frequency of calls. The calls with both of my older people last between 30-50 minutes. I enjoy hearing about their week, what they have been doing and general chit-chat. The charity provides training before you are assigned an older person, and they’re very supportive of volunteers.
Why phone volunteering?
I decided to do the phone befriending rather than face to face volunteering, as it allows more flexibility. I am able to call an older person in any part of the country and from wherever I am. This allows me more potential matches but also there was no face to face volunteering within my local area.
I love volunteering and look forward to making the calls each week to my assigned older person. It is hugely rewarding, and I urge anyone to volunteer if they so wish. This is a wonderful charity with massive volunteer opportunities and I find it so rewarding too.
What is it that you’d recommend about the experience?
I enjoy the human interaction that phone volunteering can provide. It is rare nowadays that people use a phone to talk so it’s nice to be able to use the phone for what it was designed for, as well as making a difference to a person. Phone volunteering is all-encompassing as it allows people to volunteer even if face to face opportunities are not available in the local area, as well as meaning the older person is not affected if you are not in one location.
As well as allowing the volunteer to literally be anywhere when they make the call, phone volunteering also provides the chance to talk to older people in different parts of the country and so broadens the volunteering experience.
To find out more about Independent Age visit: https://www.independentage.org/
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