Call companions Pat and Catherine prove age is no barrier to friendship and having a good laugh together to lift their spirits. They were matched together at the start of the year and speak to each other every week.

It has been 13 years since Pat, from Doncaster, lost her husband Mervyn, but she says she still misses him every day. They were married for 48 years and their wedding photo takes pride of place on her shelf. She still wears her wedding ring because it makes her feel closer to her late husband. Tragically 83-year-old Pat lost her only child, Julia, 54, last year, which has made her loneliness even harder to bear.

Pat: You know someone is going to ring and that is a lovely feeling.

“It’s that feeling of knowing you are all alone in the world. That no-one is going to call or pop by for a cup of tea. Having someone to talk to – just about small unimportant things – makes all the difference.

“Unless you’ve felt lonely you can’t know what it’s like. The days are long and it’s so hard having no-one to talk to. No-one to turn to. But these calls give you something to look forward to. You know someone is going to ring and that is a lovely feeling. I don’t have to watch what I say, I can just be myself. We have a good laugh and a joke. Catherine has become a valued friend and I look forward to my time with her every week."

Pat speaks so highly of her weekly chats and recommends call companions to anyone in need of some company: “It really is a brilliant scheme. The calls make you feel like you belong - like you aren’t forgotten and if something happened to you someone would notice.”

Catherine: I hope Pat knows how special she is.

Catherine, 43, from Chandler’s Ford, is married and has two daughters. She had always wanted to volunteer but it was last year’s lockdown that spurred her into action.

“I know that loneliness can be a real issue for older people. It must be very difficult to go for days without speaking to anyone and when the pandemic hit I realised the situation would only get worse.

"Many of the activities organised for older people had to stop overnight and many people had to shield. I wanted to help in some way and so decided to become a call companion.”

The experience has been hugely rewarding for Catherine, summing it up as “wonderful.”

“Pat is a truly amazing lady. She is a real character and enjoys getting into mischief. We always have a good laugh during our calls which cheers us both up.

“It’s so wonderful being able to talk to someone who can give you a whole new perspective on things. It’s amazing what stories people have to tell and it’s also hugely rewarding to think your call can brighten someone’s day. I always come off the phone feeling happier and knowing that my call has meant Pat has spoken to someone that day. I hope Pat knows how special she is.”

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