The weekly phone call which means the world to Sunderland pensioners

Sheila Gent talks to Age UK volunteer David Goodfellow at her home.
Sheila Gent talks to Age UK volunteer David Goodfellow at her home.
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One phone call every Friday makes all the difference to one Sunderland pensioner.

Sheila Gent has lived alone since losing her husband George nine years ago.

The 84-year-old is confined to a wheelchair after an infection meant she had to have her right leg amputated two years ago.

Since then, Sheila, a once-active woman, has found it difficult to socialise like she used to.

And as an only child with no other family, Sheila, a personal assistant to the director of architecture and planning at Sunderland Civic Centre before she retired, understandably began feeling lonely.

To combat that loneliness, Age UK matched her with befriending service volunteer David Goodfellow.

Sheila Gent talks to Age UK volunteer David Goodfellow at her home.

Sheila Gent talks to Age UK volunteer David Goodfellow at her home.

Now every Friday morning, David rings Sheila to find out how she’s getting on, to see if there is anything she needs and to have a general chat.

“I have been speaking to David for about 18 months now, and I look forward to his calls,” she said.

“We chat for around 20 minutes and discuss what we have been doing during the week.

“It’s nice. I think the Age UK service is very good.”

Read more about our “no one should have no one” campaign with Age UK
David, 77, enjoys their conversations and likes to know he is helping to stop people feeling lonely.

“I ring six ladies for a chat on Friday mornings,” he said. “I started volunteering with Age UK around 10 years ago. Before that, I used to volunteer for St Benedict’s Hospice in Sunderland. I did that for five years after I retired aged 55.”

“Old people in their homes are so isolated, and some only see their carers.

“I enjoy volunteering and get a lot out of it.

“Sheila is a dear lady, and we have a good relationship.”

David, who served on the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee for magistrates for nine years in Sunderland, also organises the annual Age UK Boxing Day meal for isolated elderly people.”