Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation which can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and well-being.
NHS statistics state that In England, 51% of all people over 75 live alone and 5 million older people say the television is their main form of company.
People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons and deaths of spouses and friends feature highly in the causes of social isolation and may leave surviving partners feeling vulnerable.
Friends Together is a small local charity firmly rooted in the communities of West Kent and serving the needs of the elderly bereaved.
Our mission is to provide comfort and relief from loneliness for those in our community who have experienced a close bereavement.
Our charitable work and plans for the future
We deliver support via a series of regular social meetings. We currently organise 10 every month in different locations around the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells area. Some are lunch clubs and some coffee groups. We also have a fortnightly activity based drop in group which meets in a local café. Some examples of recent activities are, a strawberry cream tea, How to use the internet: Websites and Email, a decoupage craft afternoon and a quiz. We also arrange days out and theatre or cinema trips. The charity is run entirely by volunteers.
From January 2015 we shall be adding a fortnightly Sunday afternoon group in the Age UK centre in Tonbridge bringing the total number of groups to 12 each month.
I started Friends Together for a small group of bereaved people in East Peckham in 2007 but it soon became very evident that there was a huge need for this kind of support
In 2012, because Friends Together needed to grow beyond the financial resources of my business, we became a registered charity although my company Abbey Funeral Services Ltd. continues to be the main financial sponsor.
We are supported by many local organisations and businesses. Every month Bourne Produce of East Peckham generously provides us with fruit and veg: E R Hickmott and Son and J Kempster and Sons of Tunbridge Wells each sponsor one of our groups. We have been gifted cash collections from local Churches and received generous donations from Tonbridge & Malling Council, West Kent Freemasons and Tonbridge Lions club. We are hugely indebted to all of our sponsors for all of their support.
We currently have over 100 members.
Bereaved people need somewhere to go when the day seems impossible to deal with. Very few need counselling or any other kind of clinical intervention; they do need somebody to listen to them: they do need care and compassion to help them through the dark days. They need friends.
Founding Trustee and Chairman
WHAT OUR MEMBERS SAY
Friends has literally been a 'God send' for me at a time when I didn't think I would ever feel 'normal' again to be with people who fully understand exactly what you are going through, and also to have made friends that has enabled us to go on holidays together which is fantastic as again it's not something I could have done on my own. Linda, Tonbridge Group.
The idea of bringing us together for lunch and a chat is such a boost to the morale. For me, at least, it is positively therapeutic. Of course it is difficult to move on – we all know that – but Christine’s efforts make the journey that little bit more manageable. Without putting too fine a point on it, this lady somehow manages to shine a light through the darkness of grief. Monica, Paddock Wood Group.