‘Friendship Lunches’ held for elderly people in bid to prevent isolation and loneliness

A group which encourages elderly people to meet for lunch has been set up to help tackle loneliness among pensioners.

Kathy Markwick created ‘Friendship Lunches’ to help people who may feel isolated meet and chat to others. The events take place every second Monday of the month at different venues across Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley.

Kathy, 67, said: “I absolutely love seeing guests chatting, laughing, having a dance and meeting old/making new friends.”

The lunch provides a two course meal, a raffle and live entertainment, with their most recent event being held at the Crosspool Tavern in Broomhill, with 51 people attending.

Micheal Harrison, 79, has been going to these lunches for 18 months, and says he loves everything about them.

He said: “It completely changed my life. I live on my own and have no family, for me it was just four walls; ‘Friendship Lunches’ changed all that.”

Mr Harrison’s neighbour Janet Thornton introduced him to the lunches.

The 74-year-old said: “He hadn’t left his house in two years, so I brought him here and he loves it! That’s my mission, to get everyone who’s lonely here and meeting up.”

There have been over 250 events since the first gathering at a Superjam Tea Party at the Holiday Inn Barnsley, nine years ago.

The lunches are being socially prescribed to the elderly and referrals come from many places such as GP’s and Community Support Workers.

Kathy, who lives in Deepcar, said: “There have been so many amazing case studies- one lady said to me ‘Kathy- you have changed our lives. We have been locked up for almost three years due to coved and we are not going to let anything stop us from going out now and socialising’.”

The lunches use the money from ticket prices to include an element of profit for the entertainment and raffles, and also help raise money for charities.

The most recent event raised £64 for Weston Park charities and SCCCC.

Kathy added: “I do tend to receive most of the recognition for my work, but I truly could not do what I do without the teams at the venues, the amazing entertainers, the sponsors and the press.”

Written by Holly Robson

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