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News : Experian Launches Befriending Service with Age UK Notts
April 3, 2014 -- Experian has joined the Age UK Notts campaign to end loneliness by starting its own telephone befriending service.
With over 40,000 people aged 75 or over living alone in Nottinghamshire, loneliness for the elderly is a serious problem.
Over 27,000 older people in the county feel trapped in their own homes, whilst around 39,000 are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week.
Age UK Notts has launched a campaign to tackle the problem and is encouraging individuals to pledge their time to help out elderly friends or neighbours, giving them the company they so desperately desire.
However, organisations like Experian have shown this can be done on a much larger scale with the backing of businesses.
Head of community involvement at Experian, Jan Barratt, said the befriending scheme it has set up - which sees employees phoning an older person once a week - is proving to be a real success.
"Many of our employees can’t leave the office or are stuck in a call centre so felt left out when it came to volunteering," she said.
"This scheme suits them down to the ground, meaning by just leaving their desk for 10 or 15 minutes once a week, they actually make a difference to people’s lives."
Regina O’Reily is one of the scheme’s first volunteers and said she gets a lot out of taking part.
"It is amazing to be able to give a little bit of time back and taking just a few minutes out a week is the least I can do," she said.
"I am going to be old myself one day and I really hope someone does the same for me."
Ms O’Reily speaks to a 90-year-old woman named Betty once a week and said she reminded her of an older version of herself.
"She lives on her own, has no family, no kids and one day even said to me she had not spoken to anyone since our phone call the previous week," she said.
"It’s heartbreaking but, with all my family back in Ireland, I feel like we now have a little family bond and you can hear how grateful she is on the end of the phone just to have someone to chat to."
Mick Tinkler, chief executive at Age UK Notts, said: "Our befrienders are all volunteers who freely give up their time to help lonely older people. For Experian to facilitate and encourage its team to take part in this initiative as part of their working day is fantastic.
"The relationships created through the initiative not only promote the wellbeing and confidence of older people, but also help them to remain independent in their own homes. Hence they are making a real difference to people in later life."
Ms Barratt said Experian had strong links with other companies and was trying to encourage more businesses to get involved.
"We say to them why don’t you give it a go?" she said. "Any big company has an obligation to give back to the community in whatever way they can."
"But we get a lot back out of it too as we watch community projects grow and it is very satisfying."
Age UK Notts has launched a Campaign to End Loneliness to change these people's lives. It hopes to get 1,000 pledges by the end of June with people promising to offer their time to family, friends and neighbours.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Experian plc, formerly known as CCN Systems, is a global credit information group, with operations in 36 countries.
Published: Friday, April 4, 2014