The long winter nights and cold weather can make it difficult for even the most able bodied among us to get out and about and have contact with others. For some local people, the arrival of winter can be particularly isolating.
Two local projects, The Ripon and Rural Wellbeing Service and Ripon and Rural Voluntary Car Driving Service, are helping to keep older people, those living with long term illness and disability or living rurally to remain connected with their communities. With the support of volunteers, the services assist local residents both within their own homes and also to get out and about.
Volunteer car drivers with the Ripon and Rural Voluntary Car Driving Service provide door-to-door transport to those limited by mobility and/or location to get to appointments, make essential trips and attend community based activities. Currently the 35 volunteer drivers offer over 2,000 trips each year to passengers who may otherwise struggle to make these journeys independently.
Apart from helping passengers get from A to B, drivers assist people to maintain their ties with the local community. Passengers also welcome seeing a friendly, familiar face on a regular basis. Volunteer driver, Steve Smith, takes passengers every week to Saint Michael’s Hospice and Ripon Walled Garden and believes this social contact is beneficial to both passenger and volunteer.
I get to meet some fantastic people. On our regular runs we catch up on the latest TV and have a chat.
Working hand in hand with the voluntary car driving service to provide social contact for local people are the Ripon and Rural Wellbeing Service’s three lunch clubs. Run by a team of dedicated volunteers in Grantley, Kirkby Malzeard and Masham, the lunch clubs offer welcome relief from living alone. Guests can enjoy a hot meal in the company of others and enjoy a chat with the volunteers.
Where older people are unable to get out and about, or would like support within the home, volunteer befrienders with the Rural and Wellbeing service can also pay a regular visit. This opportunity to have a chat and for someone to listen to any nagging concerns can be all that is needed to help people feel more confident about living alone. In the words of one client recently: “When my volunteer visits, I feel like I have a friend who would help me.”
All these services are experiencing unprecedented demand, which the project attributes to the ageing population and rising number of people living without a network of family or neighbours to support them. The service is now appealing to more local people to volunteer with them.
Volunteering opportunities exist for all ages and can be done at times to fit in with people’s existing commitments. Volunteer Steve Smith explained his motivation for getting involved:
When I retired, I wanted to make the most of my time and give something back to the local community. Countdown and Richard and Judy can wait!
The service is currently looking for volunteer drivers and befrienders in Ripon, Masham, Pateley Bridge and the surrounding areas. Readers who are interested in finding out more are urged to contact Julie Proudler, Service Co-ordinator, 01765 645902 or firstname.lastname@example.org