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.
According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons and the loss of spouses and friends feature highly in the causes of social isolation and may leave surviving partners feeling vulnerable. Loss or bereavement may come as the result of a death, but is often also associated with a partner being moved into a residential or terminal care home.We class bereavement as either of those sets of circumstances.
Friends Together is a small local charity firmly rooted in the communities of West Kent and predominantly serving the needs of the elderly bereaved, however from late 2019 helping to also support the younger generation who have a need post loss.
Our mission is to provide comfort and relief from loneliness for those in our community who have experienced a close bereavement or have a loved one in long term care
Our charity works and plans for the future
Friends Together was started by Christine Parker and Jo Parker of Abbey Funeral Services Ltd in 2008 as the Bereavement Support Group for their company. A simple lunch club set up to support their clients following bereavement. The clubs proved to be extremely popular and the groups grew & it was evident to both Christine and Jo that there was a greater need within the communities that Abbey Funeral served for support not only for the families they had looked after but for others too. In 2012 Christine registered Friends Together as a charity.
Friends Together now has 7 groups covering Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and neighbouring villages offering lunch clubs, a weekly coffee morning and an evening group and in 2017 Abbey Funeral Services employed Lindsay Kennedy as their Charity Co-ordinator to help manage and grow Friends Together with the help of our many wonderful volunteers.
We have been gifted cash collections from local Churches and received generous donations from Tonbridge & Malling Council, West Kent Freemasons, Kent Community Foundation and Tonbridge Lions club. We are hugely indebted to all of our sponsors for all of their support.
We currently have over 125 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.
Chris Parker (Founding Trustee & Abbey Funeral Services Director)
Jo Parker (Trustee & Abbey Funeral Services Managing Director)
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.
So it is goodbye and thank you to you and your team. I met my new partner at the PW Friends Together it will always be a place of a special memory for the both of us. Colin, Paddock Wood Group