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Burnley based family want to combat loneliness in the elderly with ‘Old and Proud’ letter writing scheme

Michael Helps from Burnley has set up a campaign to help older people combat loneliness by writing letters.

Since 2014, Michael, his wife Lisa and his kids have set up a letter writing campaign which he calls ‘Old and Proud’.

The scheme is there to help elderly people who are suffering from loneliness by writing to letters to each other.

Speaking to I Love Manchester, Michael said: “I took my mum Sheila to Blackburn hospital back in 2014. She was 73 years old at the time, still always busy but unfortunately had suffered from a bit of bad health.

“I was in the waiting room with mum and noticed an older lady who was sat on her own. She looked very scared but we both gave her a smile and said hello and had a bit of a chat – that was the turning point for me.

“I wanted to help people who were feeling lonely, or perhaps had no one to turn to.

“I looked at my mum and thought I’m glad I’m here and she’s got someone to talk to – so I made sure I called in every night to make her a brew and have a chat no matter what time of the day it was. Nobody should feel lonely.”

Michael then set up Old and Proud on Twitter, which you can view by clicking here.

After the success of the scheme, he now wants to extend it to people of all ages who might be isolated from the cost of living crisis or perhaps suffering in the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They are looking at re-branding as Loneliness UK to help people of all ages beat loneliness.

“Mum absolutely loved the idea, she brought us up the right way and to look after our elders.

“She was a bit of a stickler around OAP – she didn’t like it – she thought it put a bit of a downer so we changed it to Old and Proud instead.”

Unfortunately Michael’s mum passed away in 2015, but he promised her he would continue with Old and Proud.

He is now asking people to contribute to Old and Proud’s ‘pen pal’ service where users can send in a letter explaining how they are feeling, their worries and concerns too.

He said: “What we wanted to do was create like a pen pal system, where people who need a chat or someone to confide in could use our services.

“We can also point you in the right direction if you need alternative services and help too.

“With the cost of living some people just can’t afford many luxuries.

“People can afford a stamp but they might not be able to afford to spend £30 a month on broadband to keep them connected.

“If you’ve got a pen, paper and a stamp write us a letter and tell us what’s going on. We will write back and tell you about our life and our family.

“It sounds like such a small thing but it makes such a difference.”

Michael said he felt like the art of letter writing was dying out, but added that there was always something special about receiving a handwritten letter in the post.

“I’m a bit stuck in my ways with letter writing, I think there’s a bit of magic to it. There’s nothing quite like receiving a nice handwritten letter.

“Usually we just receive bills in the post and letters from the bank, so to get something handwritten is really special.

“A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet and this includes having internet access too – so maybe it’s easier for people to get involved this way.

“We’re not a charity or anything, it’s just my family responding to letters.

“I genuinely believe this can be a huge help to people who are lonely. Don’t suffer on your own. We’ll respond to your letters and put the world to rights and hopefully ease off any bad feelings you’re having.

“It’s completely anonymous, we’ll tell you a bit about our lives and you tell us a bit about yours, and we’ll build that friendship.

“We wrote to the queen before she passed away and got a letter back from her secretary which said she was really supportive. Now we’re just trying to get the world out as much as possible.

“I just want as many people who are going through it to know about this scheme as possible, we’re here for people, you don’t have to suffer or go through things alone.”

If you’d like to take part in Old and Proud you can write a letter to:

Old & Proud

Business First Ltd

Empire Way


BB12 6HH

Find out more by following Old and Proud on Twitter: @proud_old

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