15 April 2024

Christine battled loneliness after her daughter died – but thanks to volunteers, she has moments to look forward to

| Zoe Cartwright
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two women

Helen and Annette have built a firm friendship through the Ageing with Grace program. Photo: Ageing with Grace.

It’s not easy to keep up with friendships at any age – but for many older people, there are extra challenges.

The death of loved ones, limited mobility and isolation can all take a toll on the ability to maintain social relationships.

It’s not just that loneliness is unpleasant. It’s also one of the lifestyle factors that have the biggest impact on health and longevity.

Ageing with Grace pairs volunteers with older people who might be feeling isolated after life changes or loss.

Wollongong woman Christine Daley looks forward to her visits each week.

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Christine moved to Australia from England with her family as ”ten-pound poms” when she was seven years old.

Raised in a strict religious family, she wasn’t allowed to go out with friends, or have them visit.

Work offered a social outlet for Christine, and when she had her daughter she was overjoyed.

“I had my daughter when I was 26 and she was just magic,” Christine said.

“It was a hard marriage, but I wasn’t brave enough to leave. I had friends at work, but I wasn’t allowed to go out with them at the weekend or down to the pub for a drink.”

When Christine suffered a workplace accident in 1994, she was left in a wheelchair and dependent on pain medication.

The experience further isolated her, but she still had her relationship with her daughter.

Then her daughter died of Paget’s disease, and Christine was left alone.

“I have a cousin in England I went to school with, and we still talk on the phone,” she said.

“My favourite brother is still alive, but he lives in Brisbane. For years the pain ruled my life.

”I was at doctors’ appointments or having operations, or on pain medication. I was never able to go out and have friends.”

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Thanks to Ageing with Grace, Christine now looks forward to a weekly visitor.

“I’m getting used to being on my own. I’m 77 and I’ve got a good sense of humour,” she said.

“These visits have been the saving grace to what my life has been like.

“It’s just freed my mind to have someone come and talk to me and ask about things, it’s been absolutely fantastic.”

Annie Lucas runs the Illawarra branch of the federally funded Ageing with Grace volunteers scheme.

She said the team was always on the lookout for volunteers who were keen to make a difference – whether that was sitting down for a cuppa and a chat or whiling away the afternoon making pasta.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is encouraged to contact Annie by phoning 0459 542 227 or emailing her at [email protected].

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