Volunteer Jos and ACE participant Roger

ACE Neighbours: Roger and Jos

Roger’s job for Imperial Tobacco took him all over the UK; when he was at home in Keynsham he was involved in family life and raising his children.  So despite living in Keynsham for over 50 years, Roger hadn’t had the opportunity to develop many social links.  When his wife passed away Roger found it difficult to get involved in life outside his home: I was lonely and wanted to find some way out of my situation.  Really I needed someone to go with and then I saw the advert for ACE Neighours and gave them a call.”

The ACE Neighbours project, run by Bristol-based charity the St Monica Trust, aims to reduce loneliness and isolation in older people.  Connecting with people and taking part in activities can make all the difference but it can be a bit daunting going out to something on your own so, not surprisingly, most people would prefer to have someone to go with.  This is where ACE Neighbours can make a difference.  A volunteer is matched with an older person experiencing loneliness and together they can try things until the person feels confident getting out and about on their own.

ACE Neighbours introduced Roger to Jos.  Jos had recently joined ACE Neighbours as a volunteer, telling us that “since retirement I wanted to volunteer my time.  When I heard a talk about ACE Neighbours at my walking rugby group it appealed to me.  I’m game for anything!  I knew it would be a challenge for me too.”

Roger enjoyed his first meeting with Jos. “We hit it off straight away.  Jos arranged to come back each week and we looked through the list of activities on offer.”

Roger has been a regular fixture at Aquaterra’s Somerdale Shed, helping to transform it from a derelict 1930s sports changing room into the community space it is today.  Roger is very proud of his involvement and all the painting and lifting has helped keep him occupied once or twice a week.  However, Roger also wanted to become involved in other activities on the remaining days of the week but didn’t know where to start.

Noticing an old golf net in Roger’s garden, Jos encouraged Roger to visit Stockwood driving range.  Following a few rounds together they then had coffee and a chat in the club house.  Roger is learning the clarinet at home and, on being given information on a newly formed music project in Compton Dando, jumped at the chance of going along with his clarinet.  Roger also went along on his own to a local orchestra.  He needed an instrument to take so took his old washboard!  The musicians loved it and encouraged him to return each month.  He’s also rejoined Keynsham photography club and attends their weekly meetings.  Every Friday Roger volunteers at a cookery club at a local community centre and has just applied to help with the children’s cookery club the same evening.

Roger tells us: “Before Jos started visiting, I didn’t know how to get out of the problem.  I’d been a very individual person – I don’t make friends or socialise easily.  I knew I needed to make an internal effort.  Jos was a stimulus – she made me think outside the box.  I’ve learnt that there are things out there if you can find them.”  Jos recalls: “I turned up one day and there was an electric bike outside!”  Roger adds: “When the good weather comes I’ll use my bike to cycle to Saltford.”  Jos is going to keep in touch with Roger and see how his new electric life is going!  And of his time with Jos, Roger says, “Jos has opened my eyes.  She’s been a real facilitator.”

Do you know an older person (aged over 65) who is experiencing loneliness, is lacking in confidence to get out and about and would like someone to help them choose an activity or two – and go along with them for moral support? If so, get in touch with the project.  The project covers Hartcliffe, Withywood, Filwood, Lawrence Hill and Keynsham but it’s always worth getting in touch to see what help is around.

The project is also in need of friendly and enthusiastic volunteers over the age of 60.  Are you interested in supporting someone to connect with things going on in their area for 6 months?  It would take 1 or 2 hours per week initially but this would reduce in time over the 6 months.  Volunteers receive training, on-going support and all expenses are paid.

There are so many benefits for both volunteers and participants.  Everyone gets so much out of it; it’s a win-win!  And as Roger says: “You’ve got to get out and do it!  This is what the project’s taught me.”

If you’d like to know more about the ACE Neighbours project, contact Catherine on 0781 763 2963 or catherine.robinson@stmonicatrust.org.uk