Because a good chat means the world
We know these past few weeks have been tough for everyone. But, the truth is, living through lockdown when you’re on your own can feel unbearably lonely at times. After all, doesn't everyone need someone to chat to?
This is why we’ve launched call companions – a free service for older people who live alone and feel they could do with a friendly phone call every week or two. What’s great is that the same person calls every time so, gradually, you get to know one another. Whatever you chat about, it helps lifts your spirits. Makes you feel whole again and more connected to the world.
"My daughter phones me, but it’s nice to talk to someone new. I always have a good chuckle with Lisa. I really enjoy our chats.”
How it works
One of our volunteer call companions will phone you at a time that suits and you might chat weekly or every other week, depending on what you've agreed. The calls last for half an hour or so and we'll try to match you so you have interests in common. The service is completely free and lasts as long as you want it to.
To be eligible for a call companion you should be living alone or in sheltered housing and have difficulty getting out in normal times. However, we do consider applications on a case-by-case basis, so if your circumstances don't completely meet our criteria and you would like a call companion, please do apply.
If you'd prefer not to apply online, just give us a call on 0800 716543 (calls are free).
“Gary's a lovely chap. He always calls when he says he will and I like that. There are some really good people in the world.”
What happens at an event?
How does it work? How will I get there? Find out everything you need to know here.
Join a group
It’s never too late to make friends and form strong bonds. We have more than 800 groups across the UK, use our map to see if we’re in your area.
Join a Reading Friends group
If you'd like to connect with other people over conversations inspired by reading, then why not join a Reading Friends group in your area?
This map shows where our regular social groups are. All groups are currently suspended.
This service is completely free and our guests aren’t expected to host any events.
1. Find a group
Use our interactive map to see if there’s a group near you and find out the details of your local support officer.
2. Apply to join
Contact your local support officer, call us or use our online application form to join a local group near you.
3. We find a group for you
Your group coordinator or support officer will be in touch to explain everything you need to know.
4. Make new friends
Enjoy our monthly social gatherings: we’ll provide transport to and from your event and your hosts will take good care of you.
I feel very emotional as I only get to go out when I have a hospital appointment and you don’t get to talk properly to people there. This tea party has made me feel alive again, with such kindness shown. I really can't wait until we do it again.
Small groups of older people and volunteers get together for social events within their community. We call the older people who join our guests. The same group meets each month so guests and volunteers find themselves making long term friendships. Everyone looks forward to seeing each other and catching up.
Our main social activity is our tea party groups called Contact Teas. Once a month, normally on a Sunday afternoon, each older guest is collected from their home by a volunteer driver, and taken to a volunteer host’s home, where they join the rest of the group for tea, cake and companionship. Our tea party groups usually meet on Sunday afternoons because we know this can be a lonely time of the week if you live alone. We have volunteers who host most of the events in their houses, providing a warm, welcoming environment. We sometimes meet in other venues, too, like community halls, hotels, museums and even the odd fire station!
We are beginning to offer alternative options for group activities, the first of which is Reading Friends which we are currently developing in selected locations in South West England and Scotland.
All our older guests are collected from their home by a volunteer driver, who accompanies them to the event and makes sure they get home safely at the end. With your safety in mind, all of our drivers are DBS checked and we all ensure drivers and volunteers are fully vetted. Before you come out with your group for the first time, you will be introduced to your driver who will call you beforehand to let you know what time to expect them.
Where possible we arrange for the same driver to come each month so that you get to know them well.
Our gatherings are open to people aged 75 or over who live alone to get together with volunteers of all ages (over 18). We have more than 800 groups across the UK. Use our map to see if we’re in your area.
If you don’t meet the criteria as a guest but you’d like to get involved, we have lots of volunteering opportunities for people of all ages – our volunteers enjoy our events as much as our guests.
You’ll be warmly welcomed by your event host, who will probably be a different person each month, and invited in for conversation and a cuppa with the rest of the group. Find out more about what it’s like to attend an event.
Our hosts will provide some light refreshments for you all to enjoy. Our events last for a couple of hours and at the end, you’ll be driven home by your volunteer driver.
If you know someone who you think would benefit from joining one of our groups, we’d love to hear from you. Anyone can refer an older person to us – whether you’re a friend, relative, neighbour, GP, social care professional or charity. Please see our referrers information to find out more.
Alternatively, you can download a guest application form and give it to the older person to fill in themselves. Or you could pass on our freephone telephone number 0800 716543. If you don’t know the older person well but you want to let them know about us, you could download our guest leaflet and pop it through their letterbox. To request a hard copy of the leaflet, contact us and we’ll put one in the post to you.
We hope you will enjoy going out with your group, but if you decide it’s not for you or you have any other concerns please speak to your Group Coordinator. If you prefer to contact us directly, our details can be found here.
If all of the groups in your area are currently full or there isn’t a group in your area right now, we will place your details on our waiting list and you will be notified when a place becomes available for you.
Your Group Coordinator or the driver allocated to you will keep you informed.
No, our group activities are free of charge for our older guests.
Our hosts and other venues will all be accessible with a downstairs toilet and not more than a few steps up to the property. However volunteers who host in their own home are unlikely to have adaptions such as handrails and toilet facilities for people with disabilities. For this reason we are unable to accept applications from people who are reliant on a wheelchair for their mobility.
We are beginning to offer different kinds of groups in selected locations. Information about these will be provided on this website. Please only apply to join one of these groups if you live in the specified location.
No, but we may be able to signpost you to other social activities or practical help services in your area. Please ask your Group Coordinator to contact us if you would like some advice about local services.
What a difference it's made to me, being part of a social group again. At first, I was a bit nervous about going but everyone's so friendly and it’s great to have conversations with different people.
I'm not nearly so lonely now. I really love the company. If I had the chance, I would go every day.