When a 'ray of sunshine' walks in
Invercargill woman Dawn Wallace used to spend her days at home alone.
The 78-year-old was lonely and had little local support.
But then a "ray of sunshine" came into her life in the form of English teacher Sara Bolger.
Bolger is a volunteer with the Age Concern Accredited Visitor Service, a programme designed to help older people who feel isolated and lonely.
The service is desperate for more volunteers as demand has increased significantly in the past few years.
For Wallace, the service has been a godsend.
Living in Christchurch but rattled by the earthquakes, she headed south, moving in to a unit at a rest home in Invercargill.
While her sister was close by, most of her family remained in Canterbury and it wasn't long before loneliness set in.
Her predicament was made more difficult by transport issues and she relied on taxis.
But last year Wallace was linked to Bolger through Age Concern's programme and the pair, with their similar sense of humour, instantly clicked.
The loneliness soon faded, overshadowed by regular shopping trips, visits and cups of tea.
Isolation was overtaken by banter, laughter and fun.
They have forged a special friendship and a bond that could not be broken, they said.
"She's like a ray of sunshine," Wallace said.
Bolger echoed the sentiment, saying they could sit and talk for hours about anything.
"I know how much I mean to her and she knows how much she means to me."
The duo planned to always stay in touch.
Age Concern Southland Accredited Visitor Service co-ordinator Chris Cunningham said all volunteers were trained and matched with an older person with similar interests.
There had always been a need for the service, but the people identified as being in need had increased. There were 85 volunteers in Southland and about 95 clients aged 65 and over. There were about 84 clients at the same time last year.
Research had shown the service delayed entry to rest homes and reduced hospital admissions. Presbyterian Support also runs a volunteer community service, called Supportlink.
Presbyterian Support Southland manager of community services for older people, Lynn Morton, said demand had increased for the service which, like the Age Concern service, matched volunteer workers with people living in the community needing some form of help.
There were about 70 volunteers across Invercargill, Gore and Wakatipu and about 120 older people.
To become a volunteer with Age Concern's Accredited Visitor Service call (03) 2186351. To become a volunteer with Supportlink, ring (03) 2118200.
The Southland Times