A volunteer with St Jude’s CVS, Alison Burt has experienced the pleasure and the poignancy of friendships with older people:
“Five years ago, newly arrived in Adelaide from the UK, I was introduced to the work of the CVS and encouraged to volunteer. That was the start of a journey of connection and friendship which has proved to be of mutual benefit to myself and the two residents I have visited in that time.
I started visiting Joyce, a resident at Eldercare Oxford, four years ago. We were matched up because Joyce hailed originally from London and was particularly socially isolated in the care home. Joyce was a feisty character with a dry sense of humour. When asked how long she had lived in Australia she would always reply “too long”. She was the only resident who smoked and we spent many an afternoon in the garden chatting while Joyce chain smoked through her cigarettes. She loved all animals, particularly dogs, and had written a number of wonderful poems about her pets.
I brought along bird seed so we could feed the birds in the garden and supplied her with many books about dogs. I also brought The Messenger from home every week so she could stay connected with the outside world. Gradually, through my encouragement, Joyce started to join in some of the activities provided by the Lifestyle team although her hearing loss remained problematic to the end.
Joyce passed away in September 2016 at the age of 90 years and I genuinely felt I had lost a friend.
I started visiting Jill, a resident at Eldercare Allambi, a year ago. Jill is a lovely lady, quite private, articulate and very “switched on”. We have some wonderful conversations on a range of topics over a hot chocolate and the occasional cake (Jill has a sweet tooth) in the cafe or outside in good weather. She has had an interesting life touring much of Australia in her caravan with her late husband and I enjoy hearing about unfamiliar places. Jill, in turn, likes to hear all about my social life!
Jill is a great reader and, at every visit, I help her choose some new large print books from the library at Allambi. I like reading too so we often discuss the book we are currently reading. Recently, some health problems have meant that Jill is less mobile than she was so I feel my visits have become even more important for her to remain socially connected.”