Sunderland dementia sufferer’s praise for befriending service

Bill Wiseman and wife Kathleen.
Bill Wiseman and wife Kathleen.
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A Wearside dementia sufferer says a charity’s vital support is the best thing that’s ever happened for him.

Bill Wiseman, 68, uses Age UK’s dementia service ‘Essence’ based at Doxford Park, to help him cope with his dementia.

The service - which offers dementia sufferers companionship with others affected by the same condition and which also provides a range of daily activities and support - has been a huge boost to Bill and his family who don’t know what they would do without it.

Volunteers are needed for services like this and the Sunderland Echo is teaming up with Age UK’s team in the city 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 willing volunteers in contact with lonely older people.

Bill’s wife Kathleen, 70, said: “I got in touch with Age UK because I go to the Bradbury centre for line dancing, and they said ‘what about the Essence Service for Bill?’

“It’s been the best thing that has ever happened for Bill. He loves going there and enjoys the activities like painting and seated exercise.

“There’s lots of things going on and he goes nearly every day. If he didn’t have there to go to it would be hard for us to keep him occupied, and he needs to be occupied.”

Bill, who moved into sheltered accommodation near where his wife lives in December last year, started going along to the Age UK Essence Service back in February.

His wife said volunteers are essential to the service and hopes more will join this Christmas.

“The facility is run by volunteers and they are essential to the service,” Mrs Wiseman added.

“They are so good and have such patience with people like Bill, they are so kind. They are so welcoming and it’s social for him.

“Age UK definitely need volunteers to help with the services that they run like the Essence Service.”

Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year as we enjoy festive cheer with our families and friends.

But for many elderly folk across Wearside, it can be a very lonely time.

In Sunderland, Age UK estimates there are 42,771 people aged 60 and over who could be classed as lonely or socially isolated. Of those, some 9,982 are over 80.

Age UK says some senior citizens in Sunderland can go for a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

The Sunderland Echo has teamed up with Age UK’s team in the city to launch our No One Should Have No One campaign.

It is urging people to help the charity, particularly by getting involved with its befriending service, which puts volunteers in contact with lonely older people.

Age UK is also calling for local and national government action to recognise loneliness as a serious health hazard and put policies in place to tackle it.

It is asking the public to sign its loneliness petition to make sure no one has no one.

It wants to see the Government and Sunderland City Council develop strategies to map, prevent and address loneliness; evaluate and improve existing services to combat loneliness; and invest in testing and evaluating innovative solutions to loneliness.

To sign the petition online or donate to Age UK, visit the charity’s website.

Alternatively, click here to get a printable version of the petition to sign and send in – get your friends to sign it too.

To get involved in volunteering, contact Age UK Sunderland volunteer co-ordinator Barry Hall on 0191 514 1131.