Column: Volunteering really makes a difference

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It’s Volunteers’ Week, a great annual opportunity to formally thank those unsung heroes who help to make Doncaster a better place by freely giving up their own time to help others.

Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges facing people with our growing ageing population. It’s estimated that almost 6,000 older Doncaster people are lonely, which is a concern to GPs like me as it can impact on both physical and mental health.

Popping in to see someone who lives on their own can make a big difference to their day, as I have found out thanks to the work of Age UK’s Circles volunteers in Doncaster.

Age is certainly no barrier to the friendship that Jordan Hinks and Barbara Moss have struck up through Circles, which is an initiative funded by the Big Lottery to bring together isolated older people with a volunteer to help them make the most of later life.

Jordan, a 20-year-old accounts worker from Adwick-le-Street, saw Age UK’s Xmas advert about loneliness and it prompted her to become a volunteer.

She was ‘matched’ up with Barbara, 74, from Wheatley, who worked in a payroll function for Doncaster Council for 33 years, until retiring 14 years ago.

Barbara has mobility problems which have caused her to stop driving and made getting out and about more difficult.

The 54 year age gap makes no difference as the pair have become firm friends, sharing a common interest in the Royal family, including chatting endlessly about Prince Harry’s recent wedding to Meghan Markle.

Barbara looks forward to Jordan’s weekly visits as she doesn’t see many people apart from her daily carers. Jordan says the hour or so she spends with Barbara seems to fly by in an instant and she’s learned a lot from their conversations.

When Jordan found out that Barbara was too unwell to go with a friend to see Daniel O’Donnell at Doncaster Dome, she contacted the Irish singer’s agent. He arranged for Daniel to send a personal video message to Barbara wishing her a speedy recovery as well as a signed photo which has pride of place in her home.

That’s the beauty of a scheme like Circles, it brings people together and makes them happy. Jordan says she still has plenty of time to enjoy other activities in her life but she gets pleasure from knowing how much Barbara gets from her visits. Very well done to her.

Age UK needs more Circles volunteers in Doncaster.

Training is provided and no special skills are required. Ring 01302 812345 or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/doncaster to find out more.