Picking up the phone to offer support to local people


“I’m really getting to know my lady and I love my conversations with her. When I get off the phone my cheeks are aching from smiling so much – it’s just wonderful,” says Emma Cafferky, our Stronger Communities Manager, talking about her role as a befriender for Age UK Oldham.

Emma is one of a number of our colleagues who have volunteered to make befriending calls to local elderly people who are isolated at this time.

Here she tells us about what her role is all about and why the service is so important to the person on the other end of the phone.

“It started with me responding to a request from our volunteer co-ordinator for befriending volunteers. Then pretty quickly she matched me with a local lady called Janice*. I was given her name and a telephone number and away I went.

“During our first call we talked about how frequently she would like me to get in touch. We decided on three times a week in the afternoon, that way it didn’t disrupt her TV schedule or plans to talk through the window to passing neighbours!

“Our calls last for about half an hour. The original brief was to chat for 15 minutes, but we get so engrossed in our conversation that it would feel rude to break off so soon. We chat about anything and everything, and usually set the world to rights.

“I know all about Janice’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, her friend Joan over the road and how they are all doing, though I’m careful not to ask anything that would identify where she lives or how old she is and so on. I look forward to our appointments and to help me keep up with what’s going on in her life  I keep a little note book in which I jot down what we’ve talked about. Before each call I refresh my memory and I can ask how so and so is getting on.

“I’m there to provide a friendly caring voice and listening ear, and help keep her spirits up if things feel challenging. Although I have to say, on the whole Janice is very upbeat and she usually has me in stitches.

“When I volunteered for the befriending service, I wasn’t sure what to expect. On the face of it, I wouldn’t have thought Janice was someone who would need a befriender; she has a support network of family around her who sort out her medication and food shopping, and keep in touch regularly. Maybe it’s easier for to talk to someone outside her family? I don’t know but I guess that’s why services like this are so important. People can have a host of reasons why they choose to use them, being there is what’s important.

“I get as much out of the calls as Janice, so much so I want to carry on doing them after this situation has passed. I’d encourage anyone thinking about becoming a befriender to do it, especially in these times when we’re all at home it’s a very rewarding thing to do. They are just real person to person chats. I love them, they make me feel warm.”

*Names have been changed.

More information about Age UK Oldham's services to help older people during the coronavirus lockdown is available on the Age UK Oldham website.