I’d like to tell you about a friendship that's been forming between an elderly gentleman, Jack, and one of our volunteers, Serhan. Thanks to funding we secured from RPLC to provide tablet devices to care homes, that friendship is now continuing virtually using Skype.
Jack (94) and his wife Rosie moved into a care home together last year, but Rosie sadly passed away just three months later. Jack is very interested in people and the world around him, but doesn’t tend to engage in group activities, preferring to spend most of his day in his room reading the newspaper and chatting to the staff one-on-one during their checks. He is visited regularly by one of our volunteers, Serhan, for about an hour each time.
I visited Jack before the lockdown and had a rich and interesting chat with him on various topics - the history of the local area, war and peace, current affairs (which he is very up-to-speed on), life values, world travel, his late wife, as well as his regular visits from Serhan. He told me how much he values and appreciates Serhan’s visits and that he’s particularly interested to chat to Serhan about his home country of Turkey. Jack and Rosie travelled extensively together so he really enjoys being able to talk to someone from a different country and learn about their culture and the “real” side of their country that you wouldn’t see as a tourist. Chatting to Jack, it was clear that Serhan’s visits help him feel connected to the outside world and are something he looks forward to all week.
It was so heartwarming to hear from Serhan that he sees the friendship as something that also benefits him: “My friend is 94 years old and I have learnt a lot of things about Richmond and the UK from him. It is very good for me to understand UK society’s dynamics and changes during the last 85 years. He is always smiling when he sees me and always thanking me at the end of the visit. It makes me happy talking to him.”
The activities coordinator at Jack’s care home told us “the residents find the visits from your volunteers to be a life enhancing activity. Although we have a very busy activities programme here, it’s important for residents to be given opportunities for one to one meaningful engagement outside of this, especially for residents who may not receive many visitors. It's wonderful that the volunteers visit on such a regular basis as it provides the residents with continuity and has a huge positive impact on the resident's quality of life and well being.”
It is always heartening to see what a difference the care home visits make to residents, volunteers and care home staff and we are so grateful to each of them for their time, support and engagement in these projects.
With the current restrictions on visiting care homes, it's now more important than ever to find ways to connect care home residents with their family, friends and our volunteers for that one to one companionship. Thanks to funding from RPLC we have donated tablet devices to care homes across the borough so that residents can join video calls. We were thrilled to hear that Jack and Serhan had their first Skype call this week and that Jack was really delighted by the experience. We look forward to more of our volunteer-resident friendships blossoming via video calls until visits can be resumed.