A South Tyneside volunteer is urging people to give the gift of time this Christmas and help tackle loneliness.
Sixty-year-old Irene Jago helps to teach at an Age UK South Tyneside seated exercise class and also volunteers in the charity’s advocate and information service as a ‘Rehab Buddy’ to help elderly people increase their mobility.
The active mum -of-two is a part-time nurse at St Benedict’s Hospice and uses volunteering as a way to fill her spare time and give something back to the community since retiring as a full-time nurse.
Volunteers like Irene are needed as part of an Age UK campaign: No One Should Have No One.
The campaign – which is being backed by The Gazette and South Tyneside Council – is urging people to help the charity, particularly by getting involved with its befriending service, which puts volunteers in contact with lonely older people.
Mrs Jago said: “If anybody needs a extra help in the house, I go around with a colleague and make a plan for them. These are people who can’t get out of the house for one reason or another.
“I also encourage them to do exercise in the house to build their strength, or take them out for a walk.” Mrs Jago helps clients on a one-to-one basis and hopes that once the six weeks are up they will join her seated exercise class to continue their fitness.
“It is part of being healthy and it is social as well because they are out in the community, so it also helps mental health,” Mrs Jago added.
“I started volunteering over a year ago when I went to Flexi Hours and wanted to do voluntary work because time is the most precious thing you can give anybody. I love it.
“I get a sense of satisfaction and happiness to see my clients smiling and happy.”
Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year as we enjoy festive cheer with our families and friends.
But for many elderly folk across Tyneside, it can be a very lonely time.
In South Tyneside Age UK estimates that the borough is the 15th most lonely borough out of the 326 local authority areas in England. Age UK says some senior citizens in South Tyneside can go for a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
The Shields Gazette is teaming up with Age UK’s team in the town to launch our No One Should Have No One campaign – urging people to help the charity, particularly by getting involved with its befriending service, which puts volunteers in contact with lonely older people.
Age UK is also calling for local and national government action to recognise loneliness as a serious health hazard and put policies in place to tackle it. It is asking the public to sign its loneliness petition to make sure no one has no one.
It wants to see the Government and South Tyneside Council develop strategies to map, prevent and address loneliness; evaluate and improve existing services to combat loneliness; and invest in testing and evaluating innovative solutions to loneliness.
To sign the petition online or donate to Age UK, visit the charity’s website.
Alternatively, there is a petition on this page to sign and send in – get your friends to sign it too.
To get involved in volunteering, contact Age UK South Tyneside on: 0191 4566903.