A growing number of people in Swanage are suffering from loneliness with some not even having left their homes since the start of Covid according to a local group which aims to tackle the problem.
Community group Swanage Linking Lives – whose motto is ‘make a friend, make a difference’ – is trying to help by offering home visits and a social drop-in centre but faces a shortage of volunteers.
Playing games at the Swanage Linking Lives drop in centre
“Largely hidden problem and a concerning one”
Sarah Bamber from Swanage Linking Lives, said:
“I certainly get the strong impression that there are an increasing number of lonely old people. It is a largely hidden problem and a concerning one that seems to be getting worse.
“We have still got people who haven’t been out since the start of Covid. Many will be homebound, but their normal visitors haven’t been to see them.”
The group aims to link people with those who have similar interests and ideas.
Sarah Bamber of Swanage Linking Lives
“People who do the visit are just as lonely”
“Quite often people who do the visiting are just as lonely, but they can drive or walk.”
The group also runs a drop-in centre at 103 High Street, owned by the Methodist Church. They moved there last year after the previous tenancy in Commercial Road came to an end.
The group experimented with telephone befriending during the lockdowns but found difficulties because many were deaf or hard of hearing. More successful were meet ups on the seafront and on the pier.
An added problem when it comes to recruiting volunteers is that visitors need to undergo a DBS check.
The drop in centre provides an opportunity for a coffee and a chat
“Linking up people”
“A lot of people in their 80s don’t want to have someone visit them because it intimidates them. So, we have sometimes got around this by linking up people who already know each other.”
The drop-in centre is open on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am until 12 noon for tea and coffee. Those attending are not just the elderly but others who feel isolated, including those with physical or mental disabilities. The group also organises regular meals.
The drop in centre meets twice a week but more befrienders to visit people in their homes are urgently needed
“Hadn’t been out of their houses for up to two years”
“We have been getting so many visitors we are now looking for somewhere bigger to meet.
“We have had at least three people who have become regulars who when they first came hadn’t been out of their houses for up to two years and they were very nervous but now they’re the life and soul of the party. It’s been a remarkable transformation.”
There’s always a friendly welcome at the Swanage Linking Lives drop in centre