Service tackling loneliness needs more volunteers

Picture courtesy of Community Navigators Bristol.

With Loneliness Awareness Week running in Bristol from 18-22 June – a free service launched last year to combat social isolation for over 50s has reached 400 referrals.

Community Navigators Bristol helps boost the wellbeing of older local people by connecting them back to their community – and is calling for more volunteers to join the service which provides a lifeline for the isolated.

Funded by Bristol Ageing Better, the service provides short-term support for people in their home or via phone appointments.

Volunteers help give people who are feeling lonely the confidence to get more involved in their community. They visit them, find out what matters to them and share information about what’s on locally. They can also accompany them when they try something for the first time.

Community Navigator Coordinators for the service, Laura Thacker and Gemma Holden, say: “…You’ll get to make a life-changing difference to the wellbeing of local people, develop some new professional skills, become a valued member of our vibrant volunteer network, and meet lots of interesting people.

“We’ll also give you friendly support and training to help you make a success of your role – and the hours are flexible.”

Community Navigator volunteer Tony, 81, says joining the service has been a “really rewarding” experience. “ I like getting to understand the person I’m supporting and see them change – and want to change. Some people I meet haven’t been out of the house for three months. Even walking with someone to the bus stop can help them believe that this is what their life could be like… ”

Sandra*, 66, was referred to the service by her GP surgery. She  was living alone after her husband passed away, and feeling “very isolated, low and depressed”.

She says: “…I didn’t go out at all. But when my Community Navigator made contact I felt like I could talk to her without being judged.

“She signposted me to lots of different things – befriending, help with my garden, coffee morning, lunch club, housing options and helped me access financial support and counselling. It was a relief to have someone to hold my hand while I took baby steps. It made it easier for me to try things on my own.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or would like to make a referral to the service contact:

*Name has been changed to protect identity.