People may be living longer these days but that longevity often leads to a lonely existence which can tarnish many people’s golden years.
In the past extended families and neighbours would rally round to ensure solitary elderly people were still able to enjoy social contact so they did not feel they were on the outside of a community looking in.
Sadly, times have changed and these days more pensioners than ever have to rely on a variety of community groups and voluntary organisations to provide the support and, in some cases, transport they need to allow them to actively engage with others.
Grangemouth Community Care provides transport to and from its base in the town’s Talbot House twice a week, offering a nice lunch out in pleasant surroundings and a chance to catch up on all the news with friends who also attend.
But the service depends heavily on volunteer drivers to take people safely from their homes to the lunch gathering. If there were no people to drive the people, there would be no service.
Dianne Smith, Grangemouth Community Care volunteer, said: “It’s very important we have the drivers to get the people here. For some of them it could be the only day of the week they get out the house.
“The elderly can find themselves stuck at home alone, especially wheelchair users, but thanks to the drivers they are able to come here on Tuesdays and Thursdays and enjoy the bingo we put on. This week we have organised a boat trip at The Falkirk Wheel.
“We also have trips to see shows at Falkirk Town Hall and our Christmas dinner.”
Around 50 pensioners enjoy the Talbot House lunches twice a week and Grangemouth Community Care is always on the lookout for more volunteer drivers to keep this important social gathering and other occasions going.
Margaret Watkin (76) needs a wheelchair to get around but been going to Talbot House for over a year. She admits she would be trapped at home alone if it was not for the community volunteers.
She said: “I have a carer who takes me shopping on Wednesdays, but apart from that I would be stuck indoors. It’s just so good to have a chat with friends and maybe play some dominoes.”
Falkirk and District Association for Mental Health (FDAMH) is one organisation which knows the damage loneliness can do to do someone’s mental, and physical, wellbeing and is currently operating a befriending service for older people in the Falkirk area.
Launched last year with funding from the Scottish Government, the aim of the service is to help those experiencing social isolation or loneliness – people who have been left alone following a life changing event like the death of a spouse or recuperation from a physical health problem.
FDAMH see befriending as a valuable and effective way of countering debilitating isolation and match trained volunteers to older people who are identified as being at risk to prevent any further decline in physical and mental health.
Julie Law, FDAMH befriending co-ordinator, said: “Our funding ended but the project is still going on and has been highly successful, especially the social contact groups, which are actually just a nice, friendly lunch group, and our theatre group.
“We are in the middle of a funding application which will hopefully allow us to extend this service.”