Silver Sunday, Golden Opportunities
This post was created by Lucy Heffer, commercial finance manager, Sodexo UK & Ireland Defence and Generations employee network workstream lead.
Sunday 2 October was Silver Sunday, an annual day of fun and free activities for older people across the UK. Started in 2012, the aim was to celebrate older residents and to help them get out and about and meet new people, after a report discovered more than a third of people over 75 said they were lonely. Whilst the timing of this blog coincides with this great event that annually increases awareness, I’d like to share a personal insight in to a year round opportunity to make a difference to the lives of older people whilst having a fabulous time yourself.
For the last few years I have been volunteering at Contact The Elderly, the only national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation amongst older people, through regular face-to-face contact. For someone like me, who works full time and has a busy social life, the amount of commitment is perfect – one Sunday afternoon every month. You are matched with local elderly people in your area and each month collect them from their homes and drive them to a host’s house for afternoon tea and chats with the other guests. Friendships are made between the fellow guests, volunteer drivers and the hosts who welcome us back every year.
Bill is 93, lives alone, and since his dog passed away a couple of months ago, is extremely lonely. He has limited mobility, restricted vision, a passion for Charlton Athletic Football Club and a twinkle in his eye every time he meets up for tea with Maisie his 92 year old girlfriend. Jean is 87, has Alzheimer’s disease, is new to the area and has fascinating stories to tell me about her times working at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology on penicillin development.
The journeys through towns that “were fields in my day” give Bill, Maisie, Jean and their friends a welcome change of scene, an opportunity to interact with both like-minded people and younger generations and sometimes day trips to the local fire station, the British Museum, and the seaside. Birthdays are sometimes celebrated with additional visits to the pub and occasionally particularly isolated guests are included in the volunteers’ family Christmas plans. The relationships formed at the tea parties are treasured as much by me as they are by the guests and the slowed pace and relaxed conversations as well as the warmth and gratitude are the perfect way to unwind before the weekend draws to a close.
I would thoroughly recommend this volunteering opportunity if this is something that appeals to you. There are groups set up all over the UK and plenty of lonely elderly people who would welcome your friendship. Sodexo’s volunteering policy entitles employees to up to three days if they are volunteering with a charity that helps to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and one day if they are seeking to volunteer with a charity that isn’t linked to ‘stop hunger’ related activities.
It was through this volunteering experience that I became involved with the Sodexo Generations Network, and for the last 2 years I have enjoyed being the Network Chair. Here we celebrate and better understand the different values we have within the work place and how working together has a positive impact, as well as promoting intergenerational networking opportunities. If you are an employee who would like to join the network or get more information please contact Generations.UKandIE@sodexo.com