A companionship service for older people - unique to the Swindon area - is celebrating a successful first year in business.
Helping Old Friends was set up by Katrina Simms, who has more than 25 years of experience working in the elderly care sector.
Katrina said she saw a need in the Swindon area for a service to provide companionship and help with some everyday things that many elderly people living on their own find difficult.
Unlike a conventional homecare service – which will also help with personal care – Helping Old Friends says it exclusively offers friendship and practical support. The Helping Old Friends team add that homecare services are often unable to focus on this side of caring, because the visits are so short.
The service also aims to give peace of mind to families who may not be able to visit as often as they would like.
As well as providing home visits, the company can install equipment, with different levels of monitoring. The equipment is Internet of Things enabled and reports to a dashboard, flagging up any out-of-the-ordinary events, so help can be sent quickly.
After one year in business, Helping Old Friends, based in West Swindon, is said to be thriving.
Katrina has recruited companions - some of them older people themselves who have a little time on their hands - and matched them with customers who are looking for some friendship and practical help.
She said: “Sometimes older people just want someone to talk to or do the crossword with. Perhaps someone to replace that lightbulb, to help navigate around the internet, to mow the lawn or put the shopping away, or take them to the hairdressers – those little jobs they otherwise struggle with.
“And because our service doesn’t offer personal care, or help with medication, as a conventional homecare services does, it appeals to people who would like to help others by working as one of our companions. The combination of offering friendship and practical assistance is really filling a gap in the current care provision in the Swindon area.”
Katrina is now looking for more companions to join. She says no experience is needed, and there is no requirement to deliver any personal care or assistance with medication.
She added: “We’re looking for caring and compassionate people with a wealth of life experiences and skills to join us, who can relate to the ageing process. No experience necessary but lots of heart required.”