60 seconds with telephone befriender Suzanne

Thursday 20 August 2020
Suzanne Holland

In place of our usual face-to-face and group befriending sessions, we are providing one-to-one phone befriending. This is to ensure isolated and vulnerable people are still benefiting from regular social contact, something that is more important than ever right now. We spoke to one of our volunteers, Suzanne, about her experience as a telephone befriender.

Why did you decide to become a befriender?

I had a dear friend who died of dementia last year. I miss my friend and our conversations greatly, and that is why I wanted to befriend an older person as a volunteer.  I am also training to be a psychotherapist and I thought befriending would help me develop supportive skills, such as listening and empathy

What was the process like from signing up to the first conversation?

Very good. I received full support and training which covered some of the challenging themes that may occur during calls. This gave me confidence and a sense of things to look out for. I was then matched up and introduced to an older person based on similar interests.

How has it been going so far?

It’s been fantastic – I’ve got more from the calls than I’d ever imagined. My befriendee, Joan, is a fascinating person who is full of energy and warmth. We definitely have a two-way relationship - I enjoy our conversations as much as she does.

What do you talk about with Joan?

Joan and I share a love of all things exercise-related. She has found it difficult not being able to get out and about during lockdown and that is something I can empathise with. She often shares stories about her past, including her experience of travelling to Greece. Our conversations provide a nice opportunity for her to remember and reflect on happy memories.

Why do you think this service is necessary?

In the current climate, many older people are more physically isolated than ever. The barriers for contact are high and feelings of loneliness have intensified. Joan often says how much she appreciates and enjoys our calls and that proves to me how essential this service is.

Many people volunteer their time with us every year to befriend an older or isolated adult living in the communities where we work. We are very grateful for their contribution. If you are interested becoming an Octavia befriender, visit our website to find out more: www.octaviafoundation.org.uk/our_work/older_and_vulnerable_people/

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