Age Matters seeking Friendly Assistance Volunteers

Age Matters
30 April 2020

Age Matters client Susan* has been struggling with self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, and is living with mental health challenges.

Under a new initiative, she was recently paired with Camilla Berger, who calls Susan every Wednesday afternoon for a friendly chat.

“I look forward to my call from Camilla and our phone chats are very important to me,” Susan said.

“Camilla’s not just asking how I am or if I need anything, but we have a real conversation.”

Illawarra residents are being urged to support vulnerable older people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Age Matters (formerly IRT Foundation) is an initiative aiming to tackle what they believe to be the three central tenants of social disadvantage among older Australians – homelessness, loneliness and joblessness.

Serving approximately 100 vulnerable people aged over 55 throughout the Illawarra, Age Matters is calling for residents to register as a Friendly Assistance Volunteer to help support this at-risk group.

Age Matters head of social impact, Toby Dawson said Age Matters clients were already extremely vulnerable before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our clients are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, as many have more than one of the risk factors; with compromised immune systems, chronic health conditions or disabilities making self-isolation complex and difficult,” Mr Dawson said.

“Through the Friendly Assistance Volunteer program we hope volunteers will not only provide regular contact and companionship but help identify priority needs for our clients that Age Matters can then coordinate.”

Wollongong-based fitness group Savvy Fitness is a supporter of the program. More than 30 Savvy Fitness members and friends have registered, including Ms Berger.

Volunteers will be matched with a client, based on factors such as shared interests, demographic, and gender, and asked to keep in touch via regular phone calls. All volunteers are screened, trained, and insured before being paired with a client.

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This story was first published in the Illawarra Mercury.