Combating loneliness in the licensed trade

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Friend on the line: Jo Navin advises how to reduce isolation and loneliness among former pub workers
Friend on the line: Jo Navin advises how to reduce isolation and loneliness among former pub workers

Related tags: Licensed trade charity

Last year, Age UK found more than half a million older people in the UK expected to feel lonely at Christmas, and with less than a month until the big day this year, the spotlight turns to addressing the issue within the drinks trade.

The Licensed Trade Charity helps current and former pub, bar and brewery workers with a range of issues from health to housing, and money problems to education, in addition to helping to ease the loneliness former workers feel.

In the second of a series of spotlights on the volunteers giving up their time to help the charity look after former workers who are feeling isolated, we talk to Jo Navin, who worked for Punch Pubs for 10 years.

  • What is your licensed trade background/connection?

I worked in the PR and communications team at Punch Pubs for 10 years. Punch was one of the sponsors of the Licensed Trade Charity’s volunteer befriending programme.

  • Why did you choose to become a telephone befriender, and how did it come about?

Part of my role at Punch was internal communications and I became really interested in the telephone befriender role when I was writing an article for our intranet that encouraged other colleagues to take on the role. I’d always wanted to take on a volunteering role but having a busy job and a young family limited my options quite a bit. The telephone befriender role was perfect as a ‘micro volunteering’ opportunity. It meant I didn’t need to travel, the time commitment was less than a face to face befriender role and it was flexible so I could fit the calls around my work and family life.

  • Who do you talk to, and how often?

I talk to an absolutely lovely elderly lady, Doris, who is in her late 80s. We speak one or twice a month for 30 to 40 minutes each time.

  • What is Doris’s situation in terms of becoming isolated and needing support?

Doris ran pubs with her husband for many years, until the late 1980s. Sadly the lady I talk to lost her husband not long after they retired from the pub trade. She lives alone now and, while she has a great family, including her daughter and grandchildren who visit her as regularly as they can, she does experience loneliness and misses the art of good conversation. She is also housebound most of the time due to deteriorating health. She has tried to connect with fellow residents in the complex where she lives but finds that they are quite often negative about their circumstances, which can bring her down. She has a wonderful ‘look on the bright side of life’ approach and misses talking to like-minded souls.

  • How does your call help Doris?

I hope my calls add a little bit of brightness to her day. She loves to have a good chat about anything from her days in the pub trade, her life with her husband, her family and grandchildren, her travels and whatever is going on in the news. I’m also there to listen to any difficulties she may be going through. We seem to have a natural affinity – it’s always a really lovely and natural conversation. 

  • What changes have you seen in Doris since the start of your befriending?

Our conversations seem to get longer each time I call, which is hopefully a good sign that she sees me as someone she can trust and enjoys talking to. I hope our calls help to break up the day for her when she doesn’t have other visitors with a good chat. 

  • What do you get out of it?

I really enjoy our conversations and quite often say to the lady I talk to that I get as much out of it as I hope she does. The conversation is very two-way – she always asks how I’m getting on and has also given me some great advice about keeping a positive outlook just like she does.

  • How has it changed you and your outlook?

I have such a huge amount of respect for Doris and the life she has lived. Our conversations have definitely made me think about living in the moment and really valuing what I have.

  • What tips would you give to someone feeling lonely and isolated?

Reach out and ask for help – it is out there. Don’t feel like you’re being a burden. Talking to someone is a great way to make you feel better.

  • What advice would you give to someone wondering what they can do to help others?

I’d recommend the role of telephone befriender or any other volunteering role that can support those who feel lonely and vulnerable. I think people underestimate the difference that just listening can really make.  

If you are feeling lonely or isolated and would like to discuss having a regular call from a befriender, or would like to know more about joining the team of volunteers who make the calls, contact the Licensed Trade Charity’s 24/7 helpline on 0808 801 0550.

Related topics: Health & safety

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