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Lifeline WA visitors scheme lays the groundwork for real connections

5 April 2021

When Rosanna Leo signed up to volunteer for Lifeline WA’s Community Visitors Scheme (CVS), she didn’t expect to receive as much from the program as she gave.

But Ms Leo said that’s what happened when she was partnered with Helen McPherson through the scheme, which seeks to enrich the quality of life of older people by pairing them with a visitor who
shares their interests.

Ms Leo has volunteered with Lifeline WA as a telephone crisis supporter since 2012 and jumped at the chance to contribute to the CVS program when it was launched.

“Earlier in my life I’ve experienced periods of loneliness and isolation, which I’ve never forgotten, so I hoped to maybe help take the edge off these feelings for someone else,” she said.

“Helen and I have some similar interests but really it’s way more than that and I feel our friendship grows each time we meet.

“It feels to me like my company makes a difference to Helen and equally I definitely know how much Helen’s company makes a huge difference to me.”

Ms McPherson, a former nurse at Royal Perth Hospital, is new to living in an aged care facility and said she enjoyed forming a new friendship.

“I like that Rosanna visits me not as a professional to do a certain job, but just because she wants to come and spend time with me,” she said.

“We are friends who have fun together as well as feeling comfortable enough to have conversations about almost anything at all.

“The visits make a difference to me and I can see that they make difference to her as well.”

The Community Visitors Scheme is a national program delivered by Lifeline WA which aims to combat the problem of loneliness in older people.

Lifeline WA CEO Lorna MacGregor said loneliness was a critical issue affecting the mental health of the WA community.

“Our crisis support workers say that loneliness, not a mental health issue, is the prime reason for many of the calls to our telephone crisis centre,” she said.

“Research has linked social isolation with a range of health problems, so visiting an older person doesn’t just contribute to their social wellbeing, it could really change their life.”

Any older person living in an aged care facility or living at home and receiving a home care package is eligible to apply for the Community Visitors Scheme.

Ms Leo said she didn’t expect the program to also change her own approach to making connections with other people.NB: Lifeline’s 24-hour telephone crisis line 13 11 14 is pronounced ‘thirteen eleven fourteen’

For 24/7 crisis support or suicide prevention services, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifelinewa.org.au

“The experience and enjoyment of meeting and getting to know Helen has given me the courage to initiate new friendships outside of my involvement in CVS,” she said. 

“During the process of getting to know Helen I’m also getting to know and grow myself.

“For anyone considering volunteering, I’d say do it, just be prepared for just how much the goodness of the people you visit can touch you,” she said.

Lifeline WA is seeking more volunteers for the Community Visitors Scheme.

For information, contact: cvs@lifelinewa.org.au

Lifeline’s 24/7 telephone crisis support service is available on 13 11 14.