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Meeting with Mates

Pauline and Jasmine share a friendship that offers meaning and value to both their lives.

Pauline is 82. She was born in her house in 1929 and has lived there her whole life. She has never married, has no children and lives alone. Pauline has been matched with a volunteer through the Mates program since 2007. The visits offer Pauline the regular contact she needs to stay connected to her community and to feel less isolated.

Pauline wakes at 6:15 am every morning to feed the pigeons and like many women her age who live alone, she likes to keep herself busy. She met her current volunteer, Jasmine, in January 2011. Jasmine visits Pauline every Monday morning and they have a regular routine; Pauline reads the newspaper out loud while Jasmine works on a tapestry. 'While I'm reading the paper, Jasmine is doing a little bit of homework (crafts)' laughs Pauline. 'She is going to teach me how to do the needlework next' adds Jasmine. It's a friendship that offers meaning and value to the lives of both women.

For many elderly people living alone, maintaining regular contact with other people in their community can be very difficult. Pauline has a nephew and two great nephews who visit when they can, but distance means these visits are infrequent. Thanks to Mates, she enjoys Jasmine's weekly visits and having someone to talk to. She believes the key to a long life is by keeping yourself busy.

Jasmine is 25 and came to Australia two years ago from China. Leaving her family behind she came to Australia to finish her studies. She has since finished her Masters in Finance and works part time in hospitality, but wanted to do something more significant in her spare time. 'I wanted to do some other things, more meaningful. When I think about doing something meaningful, Red Cross comes to my mind. I searched the internet, found out there are many types of volunteer work, but the Mates program most interested me - company to older people', says Jasmine.

Fiercely independent, Pauline fills her week with routine, but is always sure to be home for her meals on wheels delivery and her Monday morning visits from Jasmine. Jasmine also looks forward to their time together. 'When Mondays come I just feel really relaxed. I come and visit here and chat with Pauline', says Jasmine.

The Mates program is special to Jasmine, as it gives her a connection with an elder; something she misses being so far away from her own parents and grandparents in China. 'My mum really supports me in doing this job. I can take care of Pauline, like I take care of my grandma', says Jasmine.

Shared communication is a key element of the Mates program, as participants and volunteers interact socially and develop friendships through conversation and social activities. Mates volunteers not only offer friendship and support participation in the broader community, they offer acceptance.

When asked whether she will continue to volunteer when working full time, Jasmine is hopeful that she will be able to carry on her volunteer work on weekends, as helping others makes her happy. 'It makes my life more meaningful', says Jasmine. She believes there are a lot of older people, like Pauline, with no family and who are lonely, that could benefit from the Mates program. 'Everyone likes to help out; it makes our community more full of love', she says.

Photo: Australian Red Cross / Daniel Carter

This program receives funding from the Australian Government under the Commonwealth HACC Program. Although funding for these services has been provided by the Australian Government, the material contained on this website does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Australian Government.

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