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The Importance of Befriending

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Different countries and cultures have different attitudes around ageing and death, these cultural perspectives have a huge impact on our experience of getting older.

In the UK ageing is something most of us try to run from, it has become an almost shameful experience. However, in other cultures where elders are respected, for example Korea, China and India the aging process is celebrated, wisdom is passed down and chronic loneliness of their aging population is scarcely an issue.

Elders sitting around a dinner table

Over 50% of the UK’s over 75 population live alone, giving us the infamous title of “the loneliness capital of Europe”. Those who have paved the way for generations to come, are being forgotten about, or potentially have no living relations left, but these people still deserve to be a cherished part of society.

Although loneliness can mentally torment us, what are the physical effects, if any? David Halpern "If you have got someone who loves you, someone you can talk to if you have got a problem, that is a more powerful predictor of whether you will be alive in 10 years' time, more than almost any other factor, certainly more than smoking”.

This may sound like an outlandish statement, however, David Halpern is referring to a meta-analysis of 148 studies into the effects of social isolation on mortality conducted by academics at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina.

The researchers were able to look at the lives of almost 309,000 people for an average of seven-and-a-half years. What emerged was that those with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those who lived more solitary lives, this proves that loneliness is in fact a life threatening situation.

Elder man dressed as Elvis

The epidemic of loneliness has sparked a need for change, encouraging us as a society to take a more active role in the lives of our elderly and lonely, through befriending groups. Befriending is an interaction set up and monitored by an organisation, typically a voluntary or statuary service, which offers a reliable relationship to someone experiencing social isolation and/or loneliness. These groups focus on activities, making connections in your local area, or even just having one person that can help you with tasks that otherwise would be overwhelming and thus get neglected.

Within Castle Furniture Befriending is a major part of what we do, funded by Fife councils Health and Social care integration befriending scheme. Whether it’s fun and games in Tayport at our weekly lunch club, allowing those who attend to grow relationships with those whom live around them, sharing conversation over a meal or tension over a game of dominoes, for many of those members it could be one of the only social interactions they have that week, which is why it is so important that these groups run. We also offer a drop in lounge at our Flagship store in Cupar, which allows people to pop in 3 times a week for some company and a cup of tea. For those who might find a social situation like these too daunting we also offer a one to one scenario where you will be matched with one of our befrienders who will visit you in your home and take you for your weekly food shop, or just check in for some company.

The positive impact of running these services is undeniable, one of our befriending clients wrote this about our groups” The thought of doing something is often worse than the deed. Similarly- the first time, the first visit to the lounge is hard, but it won’t take long before you make friends and join in on the banter. We all have to do things for the first time before we feel comfortable, but don’t forget- we have all been first timers so we know what it’s like”.

If you or anyone you know would like to join us, complete our referral form.

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