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Act on your good intentions

Looking out of the window at the frosty ground I reluctantly admit that it’s time to dig out the winter coat. As I scrape the ice off the car windscreen I dream of lovely warm summer days but can’t imagine walking around in my shorts and T-shirt as my fingers start to go numb.

Pulling out of my drive, I notice that the old lady who lives a few doors up is standing at her window again. The net curtains pulled to one side allowing her full view of the busy comings and goings of people leaving for work and children on their way to school.

As I drive to work I wonder what her day is going to be like. I don’t know her at all – she may be waiting for her friends or family to come and spend the day with her. I assume that she lives on her own because I’ve never seen anyone else at the window but then again, I’m a work most of the day so I have no idea of the activity that may take place in the street when I’m not home.

As I pull into the work car park I decide that I’m going to knock on her door later – just to be neighbourly and to show that I’m looking out for her. Yes, I’ll definitely do that tonight. She’s probably alright but there’s no harm in checking.

Nearly nine hours later and I pull up on my drive – it’s already dark and the freezing cold wind slaps me in the face as I get out of the car. I hurry into my warm house where I’m greeted by my youngest desperate to tell me about his day at school. A few minutes later and I’m changed out of my work clothes and chatting to my wife about our plans for the weekend.

The old lady up the street couldn’t be further from my mind – how sad is that?

How many of us have good intentions but never act on them?

Loneliness and isolation are very real problems for many older people with reports from Age UK stating that over 1 million people in the UK who are aged 65 or over say that they always or often feel lonely.

And as we get older the story doesn’t get any better with nearly half of all people aged 75 and over living alone. With services such as day centres that promote wellbeing and reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness dropping by over 20,000 there is a greater need for everyone to play their part by looking out for each other.

What can we do?

Showing that we care doesn't cost anything - by giving a little of our time and doing something as simple as sharing a pot tea with a neighbour, changing a light bulb or putting their bins out we can make a massive difference.

There are also tell-tale signs to look out for that suggest something may not be right, some of these may include:

•    Milk left out on the doorstep
•    Bins not taken out
•    Newspapers sticking out of the letterbox
•    Curtains drawn or lights left on
•    House in darkness when there is normally someone home.

The Winter Buddies campaign is currently running in Lichfield with volunteers offering their time to help older people with everyday tasks such as shopping and putting the bins out as well as more emotional support for those feeling alone.

Winter Buddies are looking to recruit volunteers who will receive full training to enable them to help and support a number of older people identified as being vulnerable - could you help?

If you’re interested in becoming a ‘Winter Buddy’ who can offer support to vulnerable older people living in the Lichfield area you should contact Marie Williams on 07734 159244 or Tracy Turner on 07747 693232. Alternatively you can email marie.williams@bromford.co.uk or tracy.turner@bromford.co.uk for more information.

You can also follow on Twitter @Winter_Buddies

Silver Line is a confidential, free helpline for older people offering information, friendship and advice to try and combat loneliness. The line is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year so if you’re an older person who is feeling lonely please call them on 0800 4 70 80 90

Be a Friend is another organisation who recognise the importance of helping people to lead happy and fulfilled lives. They say that over five million older people are affected by loneliness and that we can all Be a Friend and help change the future of loneliness.

Social isolation and loneliness can be avoided if we take a little time to help each other, so this winter why don’t we make a pact to look out for our neighbours?

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