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'Without the Red Cross, I wouldn’t have done anything or gone anywhere'

Joan Plevin and volunteer Eliot Jones

Pensioner Joan Plevin was struggling so much at home that she moved 200 miles to be near her supportive daughter – but suddenly found she had to rebuild her social life from scratch.

After living in Manchester for 50 years, Joan had many good neighbours and friends. But the 88-year-old was finding it increasingly tough to manage alone in her old house with no central heating.

Even worse, as her mobility faltered, the unnavigable steps at her front and back doors were making the pensioner a prisoner in her own home.

Finally, Joan’s daughter Irene persuaded her to relocate to Bridgend in South Wales and get some extra support from her family.

Weekly trips

Joan recalled: “It was a huge decision, but I knew I couldn’t carry on alone. Besides, it was wonderful to spend so much time with my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. They looked after me so well.

“But of course, everyone was busy with work and their own lives, so I still spent quite a bit of time on my own and missed my old friends in Manchester.”

Luckily, a doctor referred Joan to a British Red Cross befriending service, which helps vulnerable older people by introducing them to local social groups and services.

Joan started receiving weekly visits from support at home volunteers Elliot Jones and Johnny Medal, who took her to a local knitting circle.

She said: “At first, it was difficult to go into a room full of people I didn’t know, but I soon made some good friends and started to really look forward to my weekly trips.”

Increased confidence

As her confidence grew, Elliot and Johnny added other activities to her schedule. Before long, Joan was also enjoying a game of bingo and lunch every Friday.

And then came the big step that showed just how far Joan had come: she decided to move into her own flat.

Joan recalled: “That was another big decision, but getting out there with the Red Cross and meeting new people had given me so much more confidence. Without them, I wouldn’t have done anything unless it was with my daughter.”

With support from her family, Joan moved into a nearby flat in a shared residential home. Naturally, the first thing she did was find out what social activities were on offer.

‘Found my independence’

Joan now has the best of all worlds. She has her own space but lots of company just outside her door – and her daughter and grandson pop round all the time to check she’s doing okay.

She said: “I’m so very busy now. I go down to lunch every day, turn up for coffee mornings, go to my knitting club on Tuesday and bingo on Friday, and then Irene takes me shopping each week."

Looking back over the past few months, Joan said: “I’m really happy again. Irene and the family aren’t far away and pop in regularly, but I’ve also found my independence again.”

She added: “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without my wonderful volunteers, Elliot and Johnny.

“Nowadays I actually enjoy being by myself because, thanks to the Red Cross, I have so much to look forward to and think about.”

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