Every week Red Cross visitor Matt swaps stories and jokes with Bill. Those visits are the highlight of Bill’s week, bringing joy and laughter to his twilight years.
Bill, who celebrated his 93rd birthday this year, doesn’t leave home anymore except to go to the doctor. He’s got a walker and hates the fuss and attention it attracts. It’s an innings to be proud of. But the years have taken a toll. As time has passed, his family has watched him become more isolated and withdrawn and struggle with depression.
But Bill’s lucky, too. He has Matt, his Red Cross visitor. Matt lifts his spirits when he's down, making him smile and feel good about himself.
“I get lonely being by myself,” says Bill. “Matt’s the best thing that ever happened to me. We sit and talk about anything. He’s like a brother. He’s my best mate.”
On sunny days you’ll find Bill and Matt in the back garden, near Bill’s veggie patch, swapping stories and jokes over tea and biscuits. Bill’s daughter Sheryl says signing up her dad for a Red Cross visitor is the best thing she has ever done for him.
As people get older, their world can shrink as loved ones pass away, relatives move, and they lose their health and mobility, says Kat Butterworth, one of our Community Programs Officers based in Newcastle, New South Wales. And for some people, their world narrows even further as they struggle to pay the bills and can no longer afford to do the things they enjoy.
Loneliness can affect mental and physical health, Kat says. One study found that almost a quarter of older Australians feel lonely either some or at least most of the time. And another associated chronic loneliness with an 80% greater risk of death in people aged 50 and up.
The visitor program is one of the many ways Red Cross supports older people. Our teams also provide daily check-in phone calls, meal deliveries and drive people to medical appointments.
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