A Sunderland hairdresser is urging people not to dismiss the elderly after forming a lasting friendship with one of his former clients.
Self-employed Colin Jarvis, from Sunderland salon Nutters, first met Sheila Gent, 77, around 20 years ago when she was a customer at the salon.
But Colin, 51, and Sheila became best friends two years ago after health problems saw the pensioner lose her right leg.
The pair believe the age gap isn’t an issue in their friendship and hope they can inspire others to see older people in a different light and befriend them.
The story of their heartwarming friendship comes as the Echo teams up with Age UK Sunderland to launch our No One Should Have No One campaign - urging people to help the charity, particularly by getting involved with its befriending service, which puts volunteers in contact with lonely older people.
“When the salon moved into town Sheila followed us,” Colin said.
“I started picking her up on a Saturday morning instead of Sheila getting the bus along, [but then] Sheila went missing for a few weeks when she was in hospital,
“So I would ring her, it wasn’t that I thought ‘I’m going to look after her’ - it was something that happened over time. When she came out of hospital I started to do a few jobs for her.
“Then when her health deteriorated with her leg and she couldn’t get into the shops anymore, I would do her shopping for her and make sure she had everything she needed.”
Sheila lost her leg following an infection and had to have it amputated at Sunderland Royal Hospital two years ago.
Sheila, who has lived on her own since her husband George died nine years ago, has no children and no other family until Mr Jarvis welcomed her into his own.
Colin is married with two children and three grandchildren, who all visit Sheila, take her for days out and have her for Christmas.
“I visit her every day and we speak around three or four times a day,” he added.
“When you’re young you don’t mingle with older people, but I have made a good friend out of Sheila. You can beat the age gap - I never thought I would make a good friends out of someone so much older.
“I don’t think you have to be old to volunteer for Age UK. If you are young, you have younger views and I think that is good for older people. We have lots of laughs together.”
To get involved in volunteering, contact Age UK Sunderland volunteer co-ordinator Barry Hall on 0191 514 1131.