Call me definitely... Telephone befriending with AgeUK

Updated: May 20, 2020

When we eventually come out of the other side of Covid-19, I am absolutely certain that we will be able to list a bunch of positives that have arisen from the depths of this dreadful disease.

One of the exercises I volunteered for during the pandemic was telephone befriending with AgeUK Merton. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I bloody love to talk and I love to make new friends even more so. With that in mind, one of the things that has really exasperated me is not being able to meet new people and make new friends. That's not to say that my poor existing friends haven't been getting an absolute ear-bending from me - once you've made friends with me, you've got me for good - but I really enjoy making new buddies.

Telephone befriending is great for people who are shielding at the moment, so aren't getting much human contact. We all know how important it is to talk to people, and I think it comes down to something as simple as someone else knowing that you're there and caring about how you're doing.

How it worked:

  1. Applied, and then had a phone interview with AgeUK, who made sure that I knew what I wanted to volunteer for

  2. I sent through some info and then they sent off my details to do my DBS check

  3. DBS came through - I'm not a criminal! This took about a week

  4. AgeUK conducted some training over Zoom - this was pretty good, as you get a lot of paperwork sent through when you sign-up to agree to be a befriender and it's a bit of a trek to get through it. They essentially highlight all of the really important details and then it's reinforced when you do read the paperwork

  5. I was matched to a friend - I'm going to call her Lady T, as I'll keep this anonymous

  6. I called Lady T and I made my new friend!

We spoke on the phone for about 45 minutes (it's meant to be around 30 minutes, but we were having a really great chat) and it was just really interesting hearing a new voice and getting to know someone new. It was also a lot easier than I expected. This was a new thing for Lady T as well, but once we'd got into a flow, it was actually really easy. Lady T is shielding at the moment, so it's pretty tough going as she's not allowed to see anyone, and human contact is so important for the mental health.

It was great to chat, as you can usually find common ground somewhere. I found out that, like me, Lady T loves to trawl around charity shops looking for a good bargain, so when we come out of this we are definitely going shopping. I will now be calling Lady T every Tuesday and Friday to have a coffee and a chat. It was good to organise something regular, so that we both have something to look forward to and it helps with the routine. In these uncertain times, routine has been so important to a lot of people.

Why telephone befriending is good for you:

  • It's healthy to talk to someone new, about new things - if you're finding that you're talking to the same people about the same things, telephone befriending will completely diffuse that

  • It's really interesting

  • You make friends with someon you might never have otherwise come across

Become a telephone befriender if:

  • You love a chat - telephone befriending probably isn't one for the introverts, but if you find that making conversation comes easily, you'll love it

  • You fancy making a new friend

  • You're curious about finding out about other people - everyone has a story to tell

  • You have time to give - you only need to give half an hour a week, more if you're getting on well

A few tips...

  • Plan your phone call! Write down some questions or icebreakers beforehand and maybe write a list of things that you're comfortable talking about

  • Silence is okay! Sometimes, people need some time to compose their thoughts

  • Make notes of things as you chat to your friend so you can remember details for your next call e.g. names of pets, kids, where they grew up, what they love to do

  • Be natural - it's probably new for them too, and you'll get into a flow soon enough

How to get involved:

If you would like to volunteer with AgeUK, either Google your local AgeUK organisation, which is usually the name of your town or borough (e.g. AgeUK Merton) or click HERE to go to the national website.

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