Befriending – pretty much what it sounds like.  Popping in once a week to spend an hour with an older person, having a cup of tea and a chat. Interesting? Yes. Fun? Often. Worthwhile? Definitely. But dramatic? You wouldn’t think so, would you?

Our befrienders have had to raise the alarm on a number of occasions. Older people who have fallen in their homes and are stuck, lying on the floor, hoping someone will find them in time.  Sometimes, when clients do not answer the door or the telephone, it is because they are already in hospital, and so begins the painstaking search of local hospitals who are often uncertain whether they can and should give out information to Age UK Barnet.

Our befrienders continue to visit the client in hospital and, on occasion, have had to step in as advocates.

Other alarming situations – carers at the end of their tether, failing to cope.  And on one occasion a frail, blind woman who was being groomed by a man who purported to be a neighbour offering to help out, but who had a long criminal history of financially and sexually abusing elderly women. Because things like that do happen, even in leafy suburbia.

In order to manage situations like this, befrienders need training and support. They need someone they can call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, who can give them advice, support them when situations are unclear, and knows who to refer to when things are not right.

Volunteering is many things, but one thing it is not, is free. Volunteer co-ordination is a skilled job – matching befrienders to clients, making sure they can manage if a client is particularly anxious, has an alcohol problem, or early dementia; supporting befrienders from early training through to clients’ deaths, because, with this age group, that happens.In-between, for both befrienders and clients, it is interesting, rewarding and fun.

Age UK Barnet are holding a thank you party for our volunteers on 17 November. Because, in small ways and in big ways, they make a real difference to people’s lives. You can find out more about volunteering for Age UK Barnet here


Whilst I am expressing my gratitude, I would also like thank the actors who have kindly donated cards to the Age UK Barnet Secret Postcard Sale.

Since 23 November 2013 is both the day of the Secret Postcard Sale in Mr Simms, 781 High Rd, North Finchley, N12 8JY and also the “Day of the Doctor” for Doctor Who fans, it seems appropriate to start with

Colin Baker – the sixth Dr Who (1984-1986) and lots of other things too. But really, what better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr Who than to pick up an autographed artwork by the Doctor himself?

Jude Law – what can I say? An international star, probably best known for his film roles, like The Talented Mr Ripley (which earned him a host of nominations and a BAFTA); AI – Artificial Intelligence, Road to Perdition and Cold Mountain (lots more nominations there). He started out, and has continued in, the theatre, with nominations and awards for Hamlet and Anna Christie. And his card, like the man himself, is effortlessly cool..


Sophie Thompson a hugely varied career has seen her in films like Four Weddings and Funeral, Emma, Dancing at Lughnasa, Gosford Park and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where she played Mafalda Hopkirk. Her television credits include playing Stella Crawford in Eastenders and her work in the theatre has earned her an Olivier award for Into the Woods, Her postcard is as utterly charming as the lady herself.


Richard Lumsden is the husband of Sophie Thompson, an actor, writer, musician and composer. Currently appearing in By Any Means on BBC1, he also appeared as Foggy in the first two series of Last of the Summer Wine,  Nathan in Sugar Rush and Ray in Calre in the Community (for R4 fans). His filmwork includes Sense and Sensibility, the Avengers and Life of Riley. And his postcard? totally delightful and incredibly generous.


Thank you all for extending your friendship to Age UK Barnet.


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