Lyndsey parties on with elderly guests

A volunteer who hosts tea parties for elderly people in Edinburgh is urging others to give their time to brighten the lives of older people.
Lyndsey Rafferty drives two guests to a tea partyLyndsey Rafferty drives two guests to a tea party
Lyndsey Rafferty drives two guests to a tea party

Contact the Elderly transforms the lives of the Capital’s socially-isolated older people through free outings, where guests are chauffeured to a host’s home for a couple of hours, where tea, cake and companionship are all on the menu.

Lyndsey Rafferty, one of the charity’s volunteers, said hosting tea parties at her home is a simple way to change the life of an elderly person.

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She said: “I became a volunteer because I knew people that didn’t get out and about and were just sitting alone. Imagine being stuck in the house all day, every day, and only seeing people when care workers drop by.

“The tea parties give people something to look forward to, especially at lonelier times like weekends. It can make such a positive impact on their mental health. One of the ladies in my group never leaves the house, apart from coming to the tea parties once a month.”

Lyndsey, an events manager, has volunteered with the charity for two years. Her regular group of guests range from 70 up to age 96.

She said: “Being lonely can be so damaging. All my guests get so much out of it. They all have their wits about them!

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“There’s always laughter and we are all friends. I have formed genuine friendships with my guests and the volunteers too.”

Lyndsey, who sometimes visits her guests outwith the parties, says it’s rewarding to see what it means to them.

She said: “They get dressed up, go out and enjoy themselves and get different experiences. There’s no stigma. It’s about making friends and having fun. For me, it’s genuinely the most valuable part of my weekends.”

Bridie, 90, has been going to the Edinburgh tea parties for seven years. She said: “It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. There are some people my age who never get out. I really enjoy the company and I always look forward to it.”

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The charity currently supports more than 150 guests across 23 city groups but has a long waiting list to join its monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties. They need more volunteer hosts and drivers to meet the demand. Parties usually take place in a volunteer’s home – many have also been hosted in unusual venues across Scotland, with gatherings on a canal cruise boat, a heritage railway line and recently at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden.

Lorna Dunbar, the charity’s support officer for Edinburgh said: “Our drivers and hosts are equally rewarded for their commitment. It only takes a few hours each month and I’m confident there are more people out there who would be happy to spare some time to help us combat the crushing sense of loneliness that can really blight lives in later years.”