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Cowal Elderly Befrienders

21 October 2013

Cowal has one of the highest elderly populations in Scotland, with 26% of the population aged over 65, compared to 17% Scotland wide. Coupled with the rural geography of the region, the result is that many older people are unable to socialise with others or access local services in the area.

Cowal Elderly Befrienders provides a range of befriending services designed to improve quality of life, reduce isolation and loneliness and keep older people independent and active for as long as possible in the communities they helped create.

The charity believes that keeping active and enjoying life leads to better physical and mental health, which helps older people deal with problems and keeps them living in their own homes for as long as possible.

As a result Cowal Elderly Befrienders provides support and transport to a range of social and leisure activities, as well as running their own programme of services that includes one to one companionship visits. The project now has five full-time members of staff, three mini-buses and over twenty dedicated volunteers working together to provide more than 15,000 hours of befriending services to over 170 older people each year.

The Kilfinan Trust has supported Cowal Elderly Befrienders since 2006, with annual grants ranging from £6,892 to £8,237 to help fund services in the Kilfinan area. The investment made by the Trust means that the organisation can tailor services to meet individual needs. For example, a person may initially wish to use the Out & About service but then following a period of illness might instead require the Hospital Support service. As they regain strength following a spell of ill-health the Befrienders can then provide 1-2-1 support and their telephone service (Ring-a-Around) until they feel ready to resume with group activities.

Most recently, the Trust has helped the Befrienders to purchase a new mini-bus by pledging to match local fundraising efforts with £2 for every £1 raised. The bus has allowed the team to increase capacity, and means they can now see 140 older people every week. 

Volunteers from Cowal Elderly Befrienders have also supported teams on the Caledonian Challenge, Foundation Scotland’s premier fundraising event, for many years. They have received grants worth £1900 for their endeavour, some of which has been used towards the new mini bus too.

One client who uses the Befrienders service said: “Services from Befrienders makes me feel happier because I meet friends and am more confident because I am able to leave my home for outings.”

Duncan MacLeod, Project Coordinator at Cowal Elderly Befrienders added: “The support given to us by the Kilfinan Trust has enabled us to provide a weekly service where it is most needed in the Kilfinan, Kyles and Col-Glen area of Cowal, ensuring that we have the ability to meet clients’ changing needs and have older peoples expressed wishes at the heart of service design. The generous part that the Trust played in the purchasing of our new mini-bus has allowed us to increase our service capacity across the whole of Cowal and maximise the work that we do to tackle loneliness and isolation.”

Duncan added: “We think of our buses as mobile venues, as so much peer befriending goes on when the small groups are out together. There is always a lot of laughter and chatter in the bus as people meet old friends or make new ones - we don't do the befriending, they do!, we just make it possible.”

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