When the emphasis in news coverage is generally about the things that go wrong and the sad things that happen to people, it’s pleasant to be reminded that there is some remarkable activity that has been going on quite quietly in the background since 1993. The activity I’m referring to is the work of a local charity called Dulwich Helpline. This organisation recruits volunteers from all backgrounds and ages, and matches them with older people in the community who are isolated, who might need lefts, small amounts of gardening and domestic help or are simply in need of company. The relationships, built around befriending, endure for amazingly long periods and the social groups offer ongoing friendship to the people who attend.
Dulwich Helpline predates the Coalition’s reinvention of volunteering as the answer to cuts in public spending. The founder members of the Helpline had the foresight to realise that it isn’t always possible for the state alone to meet all the needs that people have. Instead they have sought to demonstrate how small amounts of help from volunteers can help to support people and help overcome the deep emotional loneliness that some older people feel, particularly as they find it more difficult to get out and about.
Older people are like the rest of us - most enjoy social contact with their peers. Dulwich Helpline, and other organisations like them, help to facilitate people getting out and attending small, very local social groups - singing, chair based exercise, poetry, intergenerational groups, social gatherings and parties. They aren’t passive, they want to determine for themselves what they do and who they do it with, but facilitation helps it to happen.
These activities happen because volunteers gift their time and, in so doing, build relationships and enable people in the older age to experience more positive, more secure and more fulfilling lives. We owe our thanks to every single one of them. Thank you Dulwich Helpline.
If you want to volunteer or make a donation to Dulwich Helpline please visit http://www.dulwich-helpline.org.uk/ or if you would like to refer yourself or anyone who would benefit from their services, then please call 020 82992623.