I never married or had children, so when my best friend Margie died, I was at a complete loss. Margie and I did everything together. After her passing, the loneliness was unbearable. I used to love listening to classical music but with Margie gone, I stopped all that. I just couldn’t be bothered.
We used to go on trips to the seaside but I couldn’t face going alone. I’d watch the news, but then there was nobody to talk to about it. It’s the same with mealtimes; you don’t make so much effort to make a nice meal if it’s just you eating it. I would stay in the flat all day and not see anyone for weeks and weeks.
Three years went by like this. People told me I was depressed, and a doctor even came round because he was worried I was going to do something stupid. Although I was never diagnosed with depression, looking back I think I definitely was suffering from it. I just couldn’t see the point in life if there was nobody around to talk to.
Luckily, just over five years ago, I was reading a magazine when I came across a story about Contact the Elderly, and the idea of going out once a month really appealed to me. I knew my friend Shirley did something similar, so when I asked her about it she encouraged me to call them right away. I found out there was a space in the local group and I could join. Since that phone call, my life has changed completely. We meet once a month on a Sunday afternoon for tea parties. It may not sound like much, but it has transformed me and given me something to look forward to. I know I’m going to see my friends, have a chat and eat some lovely cake too. There are so many people like me who would benefit from something like this. But if they are stuck indoors and can’t get out, how are they going to access the organisations that can help them? I wish everyone who felt a bit down could come along to the tea parties – they’d be cheered up in no time.
I always make an effort to get dressed up and love seeing my driver, Caroline, who picks me up. If she’s got the time she pops in during the week to see me, she’s just had a baby and brings her along too. I also regularly chat on the phone to Cliff from Contact the Elderly; he’s the same person who took me to my first tea party five years ago.
The volunteers are so generous; I can’t explain what it’s done for me really. The friendships I’ve gained through the charity have brought sunshine back into my life. I’ve learned it’s never too late to make friends. On my 90th birthday everyone made me a cake and bought me two giant balloons and I was over the moon. Sitting at home on my own wouldn’t have been much of a celebration.
I think society is changing a lot. I used to know all my neighbours, I’ve lived in the same flat nearly all my life, but now I know hardly anyone. When you’re young and busy, you never think about loneliness but when you get older it suddenly hits you. Spending time with others is the most valuable thing. I like mixing with people my age and youngsters too. I think people look at me and think I’m just an old lady, but I’ve still got a sense of humour, opinions and stories to tell. It’s wonderful talking to the young volunteers at the tea parties. They tell me about their jobs and their lives. Some of them can’t believe how different things were when I was their age. I can see they like chatting to me, and that never fails to make me feel nice. I do listen to the radio and watch a bit of television, but these are no substitute for human contact. Give me a nice cup of tea and someone to talk to and I’m happy!