Elder Tree

Pledge to tackle loneliness - Could you help?

Posted on March 12, 2019

Could you volunteer some of your time to help befriend an older person and support Plymouth’s pledge to tackle loneliness?

Plymouth City Council is working with local partners including charities and social care providers, taking a whole health and social care systems approach, to tackle the growing issue of loneliness, and more volunteers are being urged to come forward. The Council’s pledge to tackle the issue is in response to the government’s strategy for tackling loneliness, published in October 2018, as a result of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

Gordon Murdoch, aged 91, joined the Merchant Navy aged 16 and was posted to New York ten days later. He originally met his wife Joyce, a Wren, aged 12 when they were both at school, and then met her again years later out in New York. He then stayed with her until she died four years ago aged 93.

After Joyce died, Gordon became lonely and was referred to The Elder Tree, and is now one of the 79 older people in Plymouth who receives regular visits from their Befriending service in their own home. The Elder Tree is a local service, commissioned by the Council, that supports 1200 older people in Plymouth, has 135 volunteers, and provides 78 activities in 49 locations across the city.

Gordon said: “I was happily married to Joyce for 68 years and travelled the world when I was in the Navy, living in Australia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, before moving to London. After Joyce died I moved to Plymouth and was referred to the Elder Tree.

“I would definitely recommend the Befriending service to others, it has made a big difference to my life. Robbie Nairn from Elder Tree comes to see me regularly and because he is also ex-Navy we have a lot in common – he is always at the end of the phone if I need him.”

Gordon’s Befriender is Robbie Nairn, OBE, who also happens to be the Chief Executive of the Elder Tree. Robbie said: “All of us at some point experience loneliness and we all know someone who may be lonely – it could be your father or your grandfather, and not everyone has someone who can look after them.

“That’s why we’re launching this recruitment drive for 50 more volunteers to join our Befriending service at the Elder Tree so we can help people like Gordon – please do visit our website to find out more about how you can help.”


Councillor Ian Tuffin, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care for Plymouth City Council, said: “We know that loneliness can have a negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing, but we can all do our bit to help. That’s why organisations such as the Elder Tree perform such a valuable service and we can see the difference they have made to the lives of people like Gordon.

“Tackling loneliness also forms an important part of our Wellbeing Hubs agenda, where we plan to have a number of hubs across the city offering services such as social prescribing and signposting to voluntary and community support groups.

“We have pledged to work with charities and social care providers using a whole health and social care systems approach to tackle loneliness and I would urge local people in Plymouth to find out about how they can volunteer for Elder Tree and other local organisations.”

In addition to encouraging volunteering, other ways the Council is working with partners to tackle loneliness include:

  • Using our green spaces for community events and getting people active together
  • Using the Mayflower 400 celebrations to promote volunteering
  • Working with the Plymouth Octopus Project to develop neighbourhood networks to get people together
  • Upskilling funeral directors to support people who are bereaved and link them into services

Find out more about volunteering opportunities with Elder Tree here

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