Bid to beat loneliness among elderly in South Yorkshire

Former Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to residents who attend friendship lunches.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to residents who attend friendship lunches.

It started with a simple idea to help those who are lonely or isolated - invite them along for a good meal with good company.

The ‘Friendship Lunches’ were launched just over a year ago at a pub called The Durham Ox in Crayke, North Yorkshire, and now hundreds of elderly people have attended to enjoy some top quality food while making new friends.

Stewart Dean, manager of Toby Carvery in Dodworth, with two staff members.

Stewart Dean, manager of Toby Carvery in Dodworth, with two staff members.

Following the scheme’s runaway success in the north of the county, there are now plans to have similar events in South Yorkshire to help similarly lonely or isolated people in the area.

Kathy Markwick, community development officer at Sheffield-based care company Home Instead Senior Care, first heard about the friendship lunches when she attended an event at 10 Downing Street in December last year to raise awareness of loneliness at Christmas.

Then a few months ago she was dropping leaflets off giving details about services offered by Home Instead Senior Care at the Toby Carvery at Dodworth, Barnsley, when she got chatting to the manager Stewart Dean.

The two of them devised the idea of organising a friendship lunch at the pub and a couple of months down the line the first ‘Inaugural Friendship Lunch’ is due to take place at the pub on Monday, July 25.

Stewart, aged 30, of Doncaster, said: “We got talking about what they had been doing in North Yorkshire and thought it would be great to do something similar for people in South Yorkshire. Before you knew it we had arranged the first one. We would urge anyone who feels isolated or lonely to come along. It’s a great way of meeting new people.”

Kathy added: “We are really hoping that this will take off like the ones in North Yorkshire.”

The first lunch will be held from 11.30am to 2.30pm. Vocalist Susan St Nicholas will be singing songs from yesteryear. A two-course meal costs £6. Following the first event, the pub will be hosting games sessions including bingo and dominos every Monday from 10.30am to 12.30pm.