Most people experience loneliness from time to time. But for many people, especially older people who are too frail to leave their homes, the misery of isolation is a daily struggle. They have no one to turn to for company or conversation and are left largely 'forgotten' and unseen.
Recognising this predicament that older people face, the Catholic charity the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) is making loneliness the focus of the first week of its campaign entitled 'Who Cares?'.
The campaign seeks to raise awareness of the plight of people living in poverty and isolation and attract support for the work the SVP's 8000 active members do every year across England and Wales to help alleviate the misery caused by poverty and loneliness.
One such person helped by the SVP was Terri, a lady in her seventies who had lost her eyesight after suffering a stroke. Every week Terri would walk round the corner to the local Post Office and collect her pension. But one day the branch closed. The alternative was to use the main Post Office, which was over a mile away and involved a dangerous obstacle course of main roads and busy intersections. Social services asked if Terri's local SVP group could help and the local SVP members organised a weekly rota that involved one driver and another helper. Members would collect her pension, call in at the supermarket and then have a coffee with her on returning home. This continued regularly for two years until sadly Terri suffered another stroke - this time fatal. Over those two years, Terri had come to know all the members of the Conference and went along to many outings. She said that meeting the SVP was the best thing that had ever happened to her. The members who knew Terri say: 'All we did really was help her collect her pension - but such little effort on our part brought much joy into her life.' This is one example from thousands of how SVP members make a difference by caring for people who are lonely and isolated.
SVP National President, Adrian Abel says: "For people like Terri, loneliness is the modern day form of deprivation. People like Terri are deprived of company, friendship and ordinary every day conversation and support. They don't wear badges telling us they are suffering poverty, but it is no less real. As families become increasingly fragmented with younger generations moving into cities to earn a living, there is a growing problem of social isolation amongst both young families and the older people. Finding such people and helping them is the SVP's daily work."
This September the SVP is asking the hard hitting question 'who cares?' whilst providing an answer - the SVP.
The charity's voluntary members visit and befriend over 80,000 people at home every year. They talk, they listen and they discover what is in people's hearts and on their minds. For many, the SVP is their answer to loneliness.
If you would like to volunteer with the SVP or make a donation, telephone 020 7703 3030, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.svp.org.uk to find out more.