Staying Connected – ELBA supports mental health through befriending calls
Image: Drawing inspired by a call, Linklaters Volunteer
Written by Smera Nadeem, Isolation Reduction Project Manager
‘I know it’s only for an hour but it really breaks up your day from the monotony.’ – Alan, Service User, Bonny Downs Community Association
From being apprehensive, to eagerly looking forward to their next call, it is safe to say that ELBA’s group befriending calls are doing wonders for older people and volunteers alike. Feeling isolated and lonely has never been so apparent for many older people and volunteers who are self-isolating. This can have a massive impact on one’s mental health. Having to stay indoors, with cleaning, gardening tasks or working from home being the only distraction, the group befriending calls have provided a great way to replace the loss of interaction that COVID-19 has enforced.
During the befriending calls, volunteers are paired up with older people. Calls have been enriched with group interaction, intergenerational mixing, poetry and singing (yes singing!), riddles and quizzes, prayer, friendship and connection – the response and feedback has been great, inspiring creativity along the way:
Memories come true
Telling Stories across space
Warming in the spring
– Haiku, inspired by a befriending call – Volunteer, Linklaters
‘Two good friends – happy solid friendship’ – Volunteer, Societe Generale
The calls have enlightened volunteers and older people alike, as they learn from each other and have an opportunity to engage, talk or in one case, just sit back and listen. The feedback below speaks for itself:
“It was really good on Monday, very, very good, absolutely brilliant thank you ever so much for organising.”
– Service User, Bonny Downs
“It’s really good – sharing your life with people’.”
– Service User, Bonny Downs
“I can see the benefits of including a few participants rather that one to one (as I’d initially thought the call would be structured.”
– Volunteer, Hiscox
“We had organised what we thought would be a very challenging quiz on London general knowledge, however, the three of them were able to correctly answer almost all of the 30+ questions that we asked! It was very impressive!”
– Volunteer, Linklaters
We have had an overwhelming response from corporate volunteers wanting to get involved with the calls and would like to say a BIG thank you to all who have participated so far – Accenture, FCA, JLL, Lloyd’s of London, Linklaters, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and State Street – and to all who have reached out.
Our work on tackling loneliness will continue beyond Mental Health Awareness week. If you are a community organisation working in east London working with older people who would benefit from taking part in group calls, please get in touch with Smera: email@example.com.