For the second edition of our We ❤️ Brighton Heroes series, we spoke to the founder of Time To Talk Befriending (TTTB), Emily Kenward. TTTB is a loneliness abatement charity that matches volunteers with elderly people suffering from loneliness. They do an amazing job in helping its members feel included in the community and wider world.
The festive season is one of her busiest times but we got Emily to chat Christmas lunch, life-changing transformations. and loneliness in the digital age.
Hey Emily! Why do you guys do such an important job?
Brighton & Hove has over 7,000 people that are chronically lonely, feel chronically lonely and don’t have many family or friends. At the moment. TTTB looks after 230 people. This is great but there’s so many other people that need our help.
Why is loneliness amongst the elderly such a prevalent issue in 2017?
Britain’s ageing population has been well documented and is the most obvious reason. But I also think there’s a generation of people, aged 75-80 years+, that lived through the digital revolution. They can feel quite excluded from this new world and they often don’t want to get involved. Everything is online now and it can be quite frightening.
What is it that tends to be the spark for people finding themselves in a lonely situation?
A loved one passing away is most common, or a friend dying. Suddenly someone’s world becomes quite small, then if they fall or hurt themselves they can quite easily find themselves unable to get out with no-one to visit them.
We imagine Christmas is your busiest time?
Yeah! We’re gearing up for a 100-person event next week, and we’re currently organising our Christmas Day lunch deliveries. We’ll be delivering Christmas Day lunch to 120 elderly people’s home this year. It’s a huge jump from 30 the last two years.
How do the meals get delivered?
We have volunteer drivers who pick up the meals then deliver them to people’s houses. Depending on the needs of the person you’re delivering to, you might have to help them heat it in the microwave or oven
Do you need more drivers?
Definitely! We say the lunchtime slot is 11-3 but you can do anything, even an hour is great. We appreciate anything people can do; we know what an important day Christmas is.
How else can people help??
We’re always looking for befrienders who will visit our elderly people in their homes on a regular basis. After a two-hour induction, we’ll start looking to pair you with someone suitable. We try to do same-sex matches where possible and will attend your first meeting with you. After that, it’s down to you to arrange regular visits.
We normally say a one hour visit every two weeks is sufficient; if you can do it every week, that’s great.
Does that one hour really make a difference in people’s lives?
Hugely! We get letters and cards all the time about it and it’s incredibly moving. Recently I received a letter from a lady called Charlotte…well, for the first 83 years of her life she was called Ronald!
She credits TTTB – and our efforts at introducing her to St Mary’s Church where she has found a new, welcoming set of friends – with helping her make this change and her life has just been transformed. She told me: “Before I met you and TTTB I was feeling that I didn’t care whether I lived or died but now that has changed…I feel like I want to live forever.”
Wow! That must be so rewarding for you to hear
I’m so lucky. I pinch myself sometimes. We started in 2012 when I did some social research in the east of the city and found a huge amount of people saying they felt invisible. They had no-one to talk to and just wanted someone to visit them at home. That, combined with national evidence of the huge epidemic of older age, highlighted the need for this sort of project to be in existence. I gave up my social work job in 2014 and took a leap of faith; it’s gone well so far but there’s still so many people to help.