I first heard about Liverpool Cares one evening when having a chat with an old friend during lockdown earlier this year. We were talking about how we’d seen the pandemic affect the people around us when she told me about Liverpool Cares. She’d just signed up to become a volunteer, and I immediately wanted to know more about it, and how they’re helping to build bridges between the generations through tackling loneliness.
The more I read about Liverpool Cares, the more eager I was to get involved. Previous to joining Liverpool Cares I worked in public health research- for 12 years- with my most recent study aiming to reduce social isolation and increase access to social networks. There’s an abundance of research that highlights just how important our connections with other people and our communities are to our health and wellbeing. During my time in that role I spent a lot of time talking to people about their experiences of loneliness and disconnection. Loneliness is an issue that can affect anyone of any age and is more prevalent now than ever during this unprecedented time. That’s why the Love Your Neighbour programme, that brings older and younger neighbours together to share friendships and time one-on-one, is such an amazing idea.
Liverpool Cares, and the Love Your Neighbour programme particularly, really resonates with me because I grew up without grandparents. As I got older I always wanted to spend time with older people- listening to their stories and connecting with them. This led me to join a befriending project when I was a student in Leeds, and for the past twelve years I’ve shared a beautiful friendship with 93-year-old Margaret.
Being a student in a new city can be an isolating experience, and the transient nature of University means that students aren’t always regarded as integral members of the community. When I moved to Leeds, I was keen to reach out of my student bubble, and meet people living in my local community. During the ten years I lived in Leeds, Margaret and I shared many an afternoon playing board games, eating cake and drinking more cups of tea than I can count! During these visits I’d talk to her about being a student in a new city, and she’d tell me more about how Leeds had changed over the years. Throughout our friendship Margaret has always offered me honest advice, and we’ve had some interesting debates over the years. We might not always agree (for example, Margaret still believes that when making a cuppa, milk should be added before the water – no!), but I’ve always felt grateful to have her presence in my life.
As a born and bred scouser I always knew it would only be a matter of time before our fabulous city would pull me back in. After a decade away I finally moved home, and Margaret and I started catching up over the phone instead. Even though our lives have both changed over the last 12 years, it’s lovely to know that mine and Margaret’s friendship has lasted through it all. More recently I was excited to tell Margaret about my new role at Liverpool Cares, and how I’d be forming intergenerational friendships just like ours.
I’ve been working as programme coordinator for Love Your Neighbour for three weeks now, and I feel very privileged to be working with such an enthusiastic and passionate team, across the friendliest, warmest and best city in the world. I’ve already been able to get to know some of our brilliant neighbours through phone calls, and it’s been amazing to hear first-hand about the impact that Liverpool Cares is having on so many lives. I can’t wait until I’m able to meet our neighbours in person, but until that time comes I know we’ll stay connected from afar.
As Love Your Neighbour Programme Coordinator, my role is to oversee and develop the programme, bringing older and younger neighbours together to build mutually beneficial friendships. Please get in touch if you’d like to get involved, or just hear more about what we do. I’d love to hear from you.
Posted by Karina Kinsella on Friday 2nd October 2020
Karina leads our Love Your Neighbour programme across Liverpool.