accessibility & help

A friendly lifeline for isolated older people

15 January 2009

Care in the home volunteer helps an older man© InfoLife is about to get a little more sociable for isolated elderly residents in northern Scotland, thanks to the British Red Cross.The Red Cross’ new befriending service in Moray – launched in partnership with the local council – will reduce the social isolation felt by residents aged over 60 who have little or no contact with family, friends or neighbours.It will also help those who may be frail and have sensory or mobility problems.

Under the new service, Red Cross volunteers will provide a vital lifeline by regularly visiting isolated people in their homes, as well as helping with chores and trips. Referrals to the service come through community care teams, social workers and GPs.

Help around the home

Jennifer Allan, service co-ordinator, said: “Once a person has been accepted onto the service, we assess their individual needs and match them with a suitable volunteer visitor. Then we arrange an introductory meeting to allow them to get to know one another.”

Mutual arrangements are then made for the frequency and time of visits. Volunteers can help with shopping trips, outings for coffee or lunch, visits to libraries and other local facilities, as well as help getting to GP and hospital appointments.

Jennifer added: “Some people might need help buying their groceries, while others may be happy simply with someone calling in on them for a chat. We let each person decide what’s important to them and what they need from the service.”

Getting to know you

A recent Christmas party, attended by more than 55 people, provided an ideal opportunity for all those using the service to get to know each other. More social gatherings are planned for the future as a means of increasing social contact outside the Red Cross’ volunteer visits.

Gordon MacKenzie, Moray Council community care officer, is convinced the befrienders will make a welcome addition to the local community. He said: “We recognise the need for this service to help build stronger links between people and local resources to prevent individuals experiencing isolation and feel part of the community they live in.”

The befriending service is also proving popular with volunteers. As Jennifer put it: “This is a fantastically rewarding volunteering opportunity where you get to see first hand the real difference your time makes. And full training is offered on a large variety of topics, including first aid, therapeutic massage and good communications skills.”

For more information on volunteering for the service, contact Jennifer Allan on 01343 542 203 or email

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