Yvonne Boyle and Simone Cobbold met on a project for Age UK in 2013. Having both worked with older people for years, they were becoming increasingly concerned about social isolation and its negative effect on health.
Conscious that many older people find it hard to make new friends, they put their heads together and a couple of years later they launched Community Compass – a youth club for the over 50s.
By joining a club, older people can access a weekly social group within their local community – giving them the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills and enjoy new activities while staying active and independent.
With the help of funding from Brightlife, in October 2017 Yvonne and Simone launched ‘Share Clubs’ which match lonely older people with a local volunteer who helps them in a variety of ways. This can be a weekly visit and delivery of free FareShare groceries, dropping round with a home-cooked meal or even just a regular phone call to check they’re ok and have a chat.
“I find it so fulfilling,” said Yvonne. “For me it’s fabulous when you can introduce someone to a new activity and just watch them grow in confidence. It’s an amazing feeling to know that we are making a real difference to people’s lives – I really think it’s important to share kindness around.”
By signing up to the Share Club, members are also invited to a monthly day out where they can make or meet new friends, participate in a range of activities, enjoy a hot home-cooked lunch and go home with a packed tea and some fresh groceries. Free transport is also available if needed.
“It’s great to see people growing in confidence within the groups – making new friends and then supporting other new members to make them feel welcome,” said Simone. “I believe people want to be social but sometimes life changes and ill health can get in the way. They need reminding what it’s like not to be lonely because, if you’ve lost confidence and self esteem, it can often feel easier to stay at home.
“At Community Compass we make it as easy as possible for people to begin to be social again. This could be an encouraging phone call, a home visit, matching them with a suitable volunteer or offering help with transport. All of our groups are friendly, inclusive and welcoming to new members and we work hard to make sure they stay this way.”
Although Yvonne and Simone only met six years ago, they’ve struck a really strong friendship. “Ultimately we have the same goal,” says Yvonne, “continue to support vulnerable people to enjoy their communities while having lots of fun and laughter while doing so!”