Volunteering With a Side Effect of Wellbeing

South London Cares is a network of older and younger people coming together to form a more connected and friendly neighbourhood in Lambeth and Southwark. This World Wellbeing Week we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to some of our Love Your Neighbour volunteers who spend time each week connecting with their older neighbours.

Love Your Neighbour volunteers are matched up a with an older neighbour local to them who they may (or may not) have a bit in common with. They spend their visits getting to know each other and forming a one-on-one friendship with someone they might never have met otherwise! While our younger neighbours have an hour a week with their older neighbours, they don’t often get the chance to hand out with the other younger volunteers on the programme, so a few weeks ago we threw a get-together.

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Zoe (28), works with the NHS and has been in care work since she was about 17! She loves to share a double pink G&T down the pub with her mate Jim (92) and natter away about their travel stories and music tastes over some cooking that Zoe has rustled up (one of her favourite things to do). She’s yet to get Jim on to the dance floor... but we wouldn’t be surprised if it happens soon!

“It sounds like there are some amazing older neighbours with really interesting skills and stories. I loved to hear what other matches get up to and what they’ve been learning e.g how to sew from a retired dress maker. It has definitely encouraged me to attend more of the social clubs so I get to meet more of these inspiring people!

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Aysha (26) is usually a ‘glass half-full’ kind of mate, and she came to the programme with a drive to find a new perspective on her local area, Brixton. Matched with Addy (69) these two pals share a love for crafts and a creative flare. While sometimes we find our friends are into the same things as we are, they can also encourage us to try something new! Addy recently facilitated a badge making workshop for our South London Cares community but had a dress rehearsal with Aysha first to test how it would run. She has told us that she finds making things with someone else uplifting...

"I enjoy her company, she always seems very cheerful. Sometimes I feel glum and tired and in pain, and she comes through the door all young and bright and cheerful, and it cheers me up."

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You might have already noticed Dave (39) and Dave (78), the dynamo duo, who love to race along the South Bank together on matching mobility scooters! (Younger) Dave is a personal trainer, mechanic, actor and electrician. He moved to Elephant and Castle from South Africa and joined South London Cares as a way to spend time with people in the local area. He’s met his match with (older) Dave, who is just as quick with his wit and has worked just as many different jobs throughout his life.

“It was wonderful to meet other people volunteering in the same role as me in the charity, and I got lots of fresh ideas for activities to do with Dave, my older neighbour. Can't wait to try them out... probably some kind of craft. Others have done jewellery-making and mug-painting, I am going to find something we will both enjoy.

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When it comes to wellbeing, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Research suggests, however, that connection, giving and taking notice of ‘place’ contributes to overall health and happiness, which is something these younger neighbours were able to share. We love to hear every week about how our volunteers are finding connections with their older neighbours, and forming authentic, mutual friendships, while also increasing their confidence to talk to new people and try something different. Our younger neighbours have told us that learning about their older neighbours' lives has allowed them to see their local area anew – who knew that rolling down the South Bank together on mobility scooters could not only change perspectives as well as be a whole heap of fun!

Emily Martin

Posted by Emily Martin on Friday 30th June 2023

Emily leads on our Love Your Neighbour programme in Southwark, connecting younger and older neighbours for one-to-one friendship. South London is her treasured home since arriving from New Zealand. When she’s not enjoying shows at the Young Vic or Southwark Playhouse, you can find her seeking out music, creative events, cheap eats or even wandering the beaches of the Thames, spotting pieces of histories as the mud reveals them.