I saw adverts at Christmas time about older people being lonely and these had a big effect of me and made me want to do my bit. I lost my dad when he was 52 and my mum passed away suddenly when she was 72. I miss that connection with older people and what older people can pass on to us. I have all these questions about what life was like in the past. I applied to be a volunteer with Independent Age and was matched with Maria. I realised quite quickly that I was getting as much out of the visits as Maria does.

For Maria I know my visits are helpful. It’s not always easy to speak about loneliness. A lot of things she tells me, I know she wouldn’t tell her family. She wouldn’t want to worry them. She lost her husband which means her son has lost his dad and she doesn’t want to add to her son’s pain. She’s spoken to me so much about her husband, I’ve told her I feel I know her husband even though I never met him. He sounds like a wonderful man.

My husband is always looking out for older people, blethering with people we meet, so he’s really supportive of what I am doing. When I go round to Maria’s he says, ‘Take as long as you need’.

"My only surprise since I’ve been volunteering is how well we’ve fitted together and how well we’ve got on. Maria makes me feel so valued. We connected so quickly. She was down and I picked her up."

Maria and I get on so well, even though we have an age difference. I’ve learned a lot about life. Things like horses and carts delivering milk, collecting people’s oil to make candles at the candle factory, playing hopscotch and rounders. All these things you don’t see or hear about these days. Maria and her generation has a knowledge of what life was like in days gone by and how hard it was. As I speak to her I remember having no central heating when I was young and seeing the frost on the insides of the window when I got up. She brings these memories back for me. Maria told me she was 25 before she had her first drink! Women had to sit separately in the pub, in a snug, while men were at the bar. When my dad was alive, if he saw me in the pub it would be so different.

I was only in my thirties when Dad died. I do wonder what Mum and Dad would be like these days. I remember my Dad liked technology and Maria always has the latest gadget, so she has the same part of her that my dad did. My only surprise since I’ve been volunteering is how well we’ve fitted together and how well we’ve got on. Maria makes me feel so valued. We connected so quickly. She was down and I picked her up. Something else I love is how positive she is. I don’t have older role models so I think, ‘If I could have a wee bit of her positivity…’ That’s the main thing I get from her now.

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