the joy of intergenerational friendship

The joy of intergenerational friendship.

Guest feature

27th March 2022

This is a reflection on a very important friendship by Alice Dalrymple, a Bristol based venue manager and guinea pig obsessive. She is currently taking things one day at a time as she navigates life with high functioning anxiety and an eating disorder. 


“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possible not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born” – Anaïs Nin

In 2016 I had to take time off work due to stress, anxiety and an eating disorder. I was in a bad place and my job was making me miserable. I knew that something had to change and shortly after my time off, I quit my high flying manager level job and became a receptionist for a charity (which I still for work today but now I’m managing the revue. A glow up achieved from looking after myself and getting the help I needed for my mental illness). During my break from work I struggled to leave the house, was gripped by panic and didn’t know how to move forward. I felt completely stuck and spent most of that time highly medicated and sleeping. Day by day, I started to have a little bit more capacity for life and took on manageable daily tasks to get me out of bed and around the house, and then out into the world.

I wasn’t sure how long I would be away from my job and as my mind started to feel clearer I wanted to find something to give me sense of purpose. I was browsing various Facebook groups that I was in and saw a call out for volunteer visitors with Independent Age. In a nutshell, Independent Age is a charity which helps older people live independently for as long as possible. They offer training around technology, using the internet safely, money, wellbeing and more. Another side of their service offer is to try and combat loneliness in the elderly. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour, or family member. Independent Age have a 24/7 helpline for people to call for advice or a friendly voice to chat to and a befriendment service where they match two people who are local to each other and have similar interests and ask that the volunteer visits once a week for an hour for a natter and a cup of tea. They also have a community volunteer scheme which is the same set up as the befriendment service but you are there to support your match to engage with the local community (e.g. going to the shops or accessing support groups).

There are two skills that anyone who knows me will testify to – I love to chat and I love to drink tea. I decided to respond to the Facebook post and a week after had a call with one of the volunteer coordinators at the charity. After officially signing up (which included talking about my interests and availability, a DBS check and some mandatory training) I was ready to enter into the speed dating process. Independent Age will contact you when they find a potential friend match and invite you for a 20-minute visit to their home, with one of the staff from the charity. After your visit, both parties can say whether they think it was a good match for continued visits and if it isn’t, the process continues. I had a call soon after I had finished the sign up process to say there was a lady called Maureen who’d like to meet me. The following week I found myself outside her house with a lovely employee of Independent Age knocking on her door and being invited in for a cup of tea. It was on this day that my life changed forever. I have now been visiting Maureen for 6 years. She is 89 years old (90 in April) and one of my best friends. I have visited her at home, in hospital, in a hospice and now in a care home where she receives 24-hour support. Maureen has lived in the same small area of Bristol for her whole life and only has one family member who lives locally. When I met her she was accessing lots of local groups, was active and dealing with the recent loss of her husband. Sadly, over time, Maureen has become more isolated due to reduced mobility and now rarely sees anyone apart from the staff at the care home, her niece and me.

Going to see Maureen in 2016 changed something in me. I got on with her, the time flew by, and we had so much to talk about. It almost felt like re-meeting my Granny in another lifetime. I lost all my grandparents at a young age and didn’t realise how much I was missing by not having an intergenerational friendship in my life. I had finally found something which provided me with what I was seeking. For one hour a week my brain wasn’t bullying me. I was safe, I was sat with Maureen having a cup of tea (and always two shortbread biscuits). One thing that struck me was that regardless of our age gap, we were experiencing the same things – loneliness, sadness and grief. Having each other brought a great sense of comfort, somebody else understood and we weren’t alone.

Sometimes we chat for the full hour we have together and sometimes we just sit and hold hands and watch TV together but regardless, I always leave feeling the same way I did after that first visit: calm. Over the years we have had some incredible conversations – from who should win Wimbledon to her view on same sex relationships. I supported and encouraged her to make a trip to Canada to see her sister who lives there and to attend her great niece’s wedding. I like to think that I have helped Maureen realise how capable she is, and in return she has done the same thing for me.

Visiting Maureen has become an essential tool to help me look after myself. I want to be able to go and visit her and I know that to be able to do that I need to keep myself well. I don’t think I ever realised just how much I’d get out of this volunteering, I thought I could provide a friendship to someone who was lonely but I have been amazed at the positive effect it has had on my life. During COVID we had to put up with sporadic phone calls as she had to spend a long time in hospital, but we are now able to see each other face-to-face again and it continues to be such a joy.


If you are interested in finding your own Maureen, I can highly recommend contacting the following charities:

Independent Age

Age UK


The Silver Line


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