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Friendship can make all the difference

Loneliness is often a subject people are afraid to discuss. This could be for several reasons, they could feel embarrassed, ashamed or concerned about making a fuss. People are sometimes concerned that they will be judged, as loneliness is subjective, it cannot be measured in a scientific manner, it is judged by each individuals need for social interaction and conversation; if we feel we do not have as much as we would like, we consider ourselves lonely. Some people require little interaction with others and are very content with their own company, whereas other people require a much higher level of interaction with others to ward off loneliness. There is no right or wrong, but as a community, we should encourage people to speak up if they feel lonely.

Public campaigns have helped to raise awareness that loneliness is not just upsetting, it actually has an impact on a person’s physical and mental health; research has linked loneliness to depression and some studies suggest that lonely people are twice as likely to develop Dementia as someone who is not lonely. Therefore we recognise that loneliness is a real concern and needs to be addressed before it impacts on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

At Cyril Flint Befrienders, we aim to combat loneliness and social isolation in elderly people in Greater Manchester through friendship; we match lonely older people up with a volunteer befriender who visits them for an hour a week. Although an hour may not seem much, older people who access our service tell us that having a befriender makes a huge difference to their mood;

Dorothy ‘After losing my husband I felt very down and lonely but having a befriender has helped lift my mood. Some days I can feel a bit low but I am always cheered up when Caroline rings and when she comes to see me.’

Donald ‘Having a befriender is the best thing that could’ve happened to me. You sent me an angel. I’m not alone anymore, I have a friend and it’s really changed my life. I still have sad days but I always have Sarah’s visits to look forward to.’

Eileen ‘I spend a lot of time on my own, so having someone to talk to is wonderful, that’s what I miss. It’s nice having someone to talk to, it makes you feel better about yourself.’

We’re proud of the friendships we’ve been able to create at Cyril Flint Befrienders and want to thank our volunteers for their commitment and work they are doing to combat loneliness and the health risks it can lead to.

If you know a lonely older person who could benefit from a new friend, please visit our website: www.cyrilflint.org or call us 0161 942 9465.

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Volunteering Makes You Feel Good!

Befriending undoubtedly brings lots of benefits to the person who receives a volunteer visits. Increased confidence, mood and wellbeing are all areas improved by receiving a befriending visit. However did you know being a Volunteer also brings with it a bunch of positive effects on your health too?

Mental Health

A recent report by the Citizens Advice Bureau suggests that four in five volunteers believe their volunteering activity has had a positive effect on their health. The report indicates that volunteering boosts self-esteem, employability and health – especially mental health. It suggests those who gave up their time to help others were less likely to suffer from depression plus they had higher levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing.

Cyril Flint Volunteers often talk about the feel good factor of “giving something back” to their communities, or supporting an organization or charity that has supported someone close to them. Volunteering can also be used to gain work experience or to widen social circles. All of which can have a positive effect on Mental Health.

But we were surprised to learn that volunteering has positive implications that go beyond mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.

Physical Health Benefits:

  • It reduces stress
    Doing things for others helps maintain good health.Positive emotions reduce stress and boost our immune system, and in turn can protect us against disease.
  • It helps get rid of negative feelings
    Negative emotions such as anger, aggression or hostility have a negative impact on our mind and body. Engaging in random acts of kindness can help decrease these feelings and stabilise our overall health.

Volunteering helps you live longer – really!

Whilst it’s not too hard to see the link between helping others and gaining a sense of connection, pride, and perspective, did you know that it can also help you live longer?

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the south of England analyzed data from 40 published studies and found evidence that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than their peers who do not volunteer. The study also found that volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being.

Dr. Suzanne Richards, who lead the team of researchers at Exeter, said that more testing on this subject is necessary in order to find out whether or not biological, cultural, and social factors are associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place, as they are often associated with better health.

“The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them,” she said.

So there you have it – the benefits of volunteering are vast and varied. Give something back and improve your health today – visit the “Volunteer” section of our website today to find out more!