Scores of young Scots have bridged the generation gap and brightened the lives of older people in an initiative aimed at easing the pain of loneliness.
Contact the Elderly, which combats social isolation among older people, launched its Future of Volunteering project to coincide with the recent Year of Young People.
The hope was to bring the generations closer by encouraging anyone under the age of 25 to support its work organising the regular Sunday afternoon tea parties that provide a lifeline of company people living on their own.
And upwards of 200 young Scots came forward to volunteer from a range of organisations including primary and secondary schools, the Boys’ Brigade, Brownies and Guides. There were also students, Police Youth Volunteers, youngsters from the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative and others from the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme plus junior members of individual families.
Over the year hundreds of socially-isolated older people have had their Sunday afternoon outings brightened immeasurably by the youngsters whose contributions, in addition to the all-important socialising and chatting with guests, included baking, dancing and making music.
Among the first group of youngsters to be officially recognised for their contribution under the scheme, were a number of pupils from Stirlingshire’s Balfron High School.
Some of the latest to receive their Contact the Elderly Youth Involvement certificates were 15 members of the 1st Grantown-on-Spey Guides who hosted a party for nine guests in their local Inverallan church hall. The girls, led by Guide leader and District Commissioner Anne Sullivan, provided sandwiches and a great array of cakes, helped to serve teas and led a sing-along.
Contact the Elderly group co-ordinator William Steele said: “The real interaction was between the youngsters and the oldies – fantastic. One girl had a little knowledge of signing and was a great hit with our lip reading guest, aided by a notepad and pen. It was such a success we hope to arrange another event.
Morna O’May, Contact the Elderly’s head of service in Scotland said: “It’s been truly heart-warming to see the interaction between the generations – a gap that can span 80 or 90 years. And the benefits to both young and old are huge, giving both a window into the other’s world that they may not ordinarily get the chance to experience.
“These young people deserve a huge pat on the back for the pleasure they have brought to our guests and we salute them for devoting their time to us, particularly in an age which is filled with gadgetry that can kill the art of conversation .
“Many of the young people have enjoyed it so much they are continuing to support the charity and that’s a contribution you simply cannot put a price on.”
Contact the Elderly tea parties are held one Sunday afternoon a month when volunteer drivers collect guests and take them, door-to-door, to the gatherings in a volunteer host’s home where they can enjoy a couple of hours of socialising and conversation in a small, friendly group.
Anyone who wants to find out more about the Future of Volunteering initiative or about becoming a guest or volunteer of Contact the Elderly can contact Morna O’May at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01786 871264 or visit www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk