‘You learn so much from older people’

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The new co-ordinator for Wanaka’s companions for older people programme, Anscilaine Bothma, says it is a personal passion for her.

“It’s quite close to my heart because I grew up in South Africa, and I grew up with my gran,” Ms Bothma said.

When she moved to Scotland with her parents, she missed being with her gran, Ms Bothma said.

Later, when she and her partner moved to Wanaka last year, she saw the companions for older people programme and immediately felt that it was the right thing for her, she said.

“When I saw this programme I thought this is perfect, it’s giving a bit back, but I’ve gained so much from it as well.”

Ms Bothma began as a volunteer, and when the previous co-ordinator, Barbara Jungen, said she was leaving, Ms Bothma decided to apply for the role.

“When Barbara said she was leaving I thought, ‘I wonder who’s going to take over’, and I thought I could try to do it, because I know the way I feel about it and I want other people to feel the same about it,” Ms Bothma said.

“It’s just such an amazing programme.”

“Growing up in Glasgow, there is nothing like that there, and I just know some of my friends had their grandparents living half an hour away from them but they would see them once a month, and I used to say to them ‘That’s awful, why would you not go to dinner, why would you not take them out or go and see them’.”

“So when I came here and I saw the programme, I thought ‘Wow’ that’s amazing, that people actually care,” Ms Bothma said.

The programme was very simple, Ms Bothma said.

“It’s just an hour of chat, it’s nothing more than that, so it’s really up to the volunteers what they put into it,” Ms Bothma said.

The circumstances of the older people varied, with ages ranging from 60 years up, Ms Bothma said.

Some were dealing with Alzheimer’s or strokes that restricted their movement, some were in their own homes, and others in care, Ms Bothma said.

The minimum commitment the programme asked was that companions gave an hour a week, which could be visiting or taking the older people out, depending on their wishes, Ms Bothma said.

“We would just say there is nothing expected of you apart from friendship and a bit of a chat, you are not expected to take them meals or clean up after them or take them to the doctors or anything,” Ms Bothma said

The programme was rewarding for volunteers as well, Ms Bothma said.

“I think as generations go on they don’t grow up with their grandparents as much,” Ms Bothma said.

“You learn so much from older people I think, and their chat is just brilliant.”

Volunteers were carefully matched with an older person, with referrals from doctors and social workers, and all volunteers were interviewed and police checked, Ms Bothma said.

For further information people could contact: championforolderpeople@gmail.com.