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Making friends with elderly to ease loneliness

7th Jun 2024 | News

Teenage volunteers are giving up their time to befriend older people with dementia in two Abbey Healthcare homes in Huntingdon to help combat loneliness and teach young people skills.
A handful of students from Cambridge Regional College’s Huntingdon campus have been spending a few hours every week visiting Primrose Hill care home and Cromwell House nursing home homes to spend time with residents doing activities, chatting, and making friends.
Roanne Williams, 17, visits Primrose Hill Care Home for a full day every week. She said: “I love volunteering my time and visiting the home each week. The residents are amazing, and we do all sorts of things from Bingo and games to me giving them manicures or chatting with them about their memories.
“Spending time one-to-one with residents is so rewarding and it’s nice to see that they’re pleased to see me, and they ask me questions about my life. They’re interested to hear about my studies and family.”
Chayne Laurein Abayon, 19, visits Cromwell House nursing home weekly for three hours at a time. She said: “My visits are fascinating. Being able to listen to the wisdom of each resident gives me a warm feeling. I am also able to make them laugh and smile.”
The volunteers are part of a growing number of YOPEY Befrienders who visit older people, living in care homes across the East of England. They ease loneliness among their elders while learning life lessons and valuable skills for the future.
Amanda Favell, manager of Primrose Hill Care Home, said: “Roanne and the other volunteers are absolutely amazing. I love seeing the faces of the residents light up when they see them arrive.
“Not everyone has family or friends that visit them so having the YOPEY Befrienders means they can build relationships with the young people, and it encourages them to engage in conversations and activities.
“Social interaction is vital for older people, particularly those with dementia. Research shows how one-to-one activities such as befriending are effective at reducing loneliness and also help people to feel more positive about life and a greater sense of wellbeing.
“We spend lots of time with all our residents but having younger people brings a different dynamic and the residents loving have teenagers in the home.”
The charity YOPEY was launched in 2012 and currently has about 200 young Befrienders volunteering across Cambridgeshire and other counties in the East of England. The charity teaches the young people to relate to elderly people with dementia as about two-thirds of residents in care homes live with Alzheimer’s and the other degenerative brain diseases.
Tony Gearing MBE, Founder & Chief Executive of YOPEY, said: “‘I tell volunteers that even if a resident can’t remember their visit, their visits will make them happy and leave them with a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling.
‘When genuine friendships develop between teenagers and people in their 80s, 90s and even over 100, it’s a wonderful thing to see. That’s the magic YOPEY brings.”

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