Re-engage, formerly known as Contact the Elderly, tackles loneliness amongst older people
A charity is preparing to celebrate a milestone anniversary.
In July, older people’s charity Re-engage will celebrate 50 years of tackling loneliness amongst over-75s in Scotland. Last year, statistics published by the National Records of Scotland revealed that in 2019, there were more than 465,000 people aged over 75 living in Scotland, with that number projected to significantly increase.
Prior to the pandemic, Re-engage - formerly known as Contact the Elderly - had 140 tea party groups across Scotland, providing older people with the opportunity for contact with others at a time in their lives when their social circles are diminishing. Call companions, the charity’s new telephone befriending service for older people, which was launched in response to the Covid19 crisis, has now matched 128 older people to volunteer call companions across Scotland. Many tea party guests have received regular telephone calls from volunteers throughout the pandemic.
Sharon first started volunteering as a tea party host in Fife, where she was born and raised, and she has been hooked ever since. Since the start of the pandemic, Sharon has volunteered as a call companion and a call coordinator, matching older people to call companion volunteers across the UK. She said, “For me Re-engage is a bit like Narnia. It is a wonderful place where people from all walks of life can work together to make life a bit better for everyone. Anyone can be part of Re-engage, whether by phone or in person. There’s something for everyone.”
Muriel, who is 92 and attends a tea party group in Brechin during non-Covid times said, “The hosts make us feel so welcome and I’m lucky enough to be driven to and from the tea parties by a volunteer driver.”
Angela Rae-Murray, head of service delivery, said, “I am proud to be celebrating this significant milestone. It is vital that we continue to meet the needs of Scotland’s ageing population, many of whom lack companionship and would like to meet new people. Lasting friendships are formed at our monthly tea parties and throughout the Covid19 crisis, whilst our tea parties have been suspended, our telephone befriending service has been a lifeline to those who live alone or are without friends or family.”
Re-engage was founded in 1965 by Trevor Lyttleton who, having encountered an older woman living alone and without electricity, decided to set up a small social group for older people living in his area. He went on to set up further groups, the first Scottish group was set up in 1971.
Players of People’s Postcode Lottery has supported Re-engage since 2017 and today, thanks to their ongoing support, and that of other funders, the charity has matched over 2,000 older people to volunteer call companions across the country. Prior to the pandemic, the charity provided social connection for older people through a network of 915 tea party groups throughout the UK.