Julian, 47, is a hospitality business consultant who lives in Southsea.
What first encouraged you to become a rainbow call companion?
I saw Re-engage featured in the 1 Million Minutes campaign on Good Morning Britain at Christmas and when I heard about rainbow call companions I thought it was such a brilliant idea I just had to get involved. This is a fantastic opportunity to give something back. Those of my generation are standing on the shoulders of the LGBT+ community who went before. In many cases they will have endured difficult lives so any opportunity we have now to help them has to be grabbed.
What’s exciting about this service?
The thought of someone living alone day after day fills me with horror. We can make a big difference through rainbow call companions and it’s excellent that the younger generation have the chance to play an important role. Some older members of the LGBT+ community are living under the radar and that’s fine if that’s where they want to be. Rainbow call companions will give them the opportunity to make more friends. After all, as we get older our social circles get smaller. Some of them, through no fault of their own, will have lived restricted lives so it will be wonderful for the younger ones to illustrate how attitudes have changed now.
What do you think you will bring to the role?
This is my first volunteering role of any kind so it’s all new to me, but tremendously exciting. Some of the people using the service will have lived through harsh times, particularly when they were treated as criminals, so they may find it hard to talk through some things.
What positives do you hope for?
I hope I’ll make new friends, give something back to the LGBT+ community and make the world a better place. I haven’t experienced prejudice. I have a job and a husband so there are people around me. I’m lucky. But there are many who are not in my position, and I want to help change that. This is a chance to morally re-balance things.
What advice would you give to an older LGBT+ person living alone?
Get in touch, reach out and don’t be lonely. We are here to support you; the community can support you.
What are your hopes for the rainbow call companions service?
I hope it’s a tremendous success and that it encourages older LGBT+ people to feel more confident about making new friendships. We all suffered from isolation during the Covid pandemic and no doubt this was more pronounced for LGBT+ older people who often don’t have children and grandchildren, so their families are smaller. Hopefully, a regular call will help alleviate that feeling of isolation.
Why is it important to volunteer?
Because you can’t sit back and expect everyone else to do it. We all have a community and social responsibility to our fellow humans.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I’m a self-starter so I don’t want to lie in bed. I’m not the sort of person to sit around idly and mope about things. I just want to get on, enjoy life and help others. As I’ve said, being a rainbow call companion provides a perfect opportunity to give something back, so that’s an added incentive to get-up.
Meet call companion Erin
Becoming aware of how isolated an older neighbour felt during the pandemic prompted 21-year-old Erin to get in touch with Re-engage. Today, Erin is one of our call companion volunteers and a wonderful example of the positive impact of bringing different generations together.
The digital divide
With more of us in the world relying on the internet since the coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to get a better understanding of what people aged 75 and over think of the internet. Who is online and who isn't and why? Our commissioned research showed that half were not online, while others found the internet a lifeline.