Centre for Death & Society

Pilot Project: Exploring the needs of “Befrienders” at Age UK Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES)


Principal Investiagtor: Renske Visser

Department of Social & Policy Sciences 

Dates: This project will take place during May 2017  

Project Rationale and Aims

Departmental themes

My PhD project focuses on the meaning of “home” for older people living alone at the end of life and how older people reflect on their own mortality. Discussing issues concerning ageing and dying can be emotive for the researcher and last year I secured GW4 funding to run a successful one day postgraduate workshop discussing the emotional and sensitive nature of ageing, death and dying studies.  

This pilot project focuses on befrienders. Befrienders are volunteers who provide regular contact and support to alleviate loneliness and isolation. They visit an older person in their own home on a regular basis. The majority of befrienders are living in the local community, and helping older people in the local community.

Age UK Bath and North East Somerset is a local, independent charity serving local people. Although part of the Age UK family, all the money they raise is used to support people in B&NES. They rely on the generosity of the local community, businesses and volunteers in the community. 

Age UK have a support system in place to help a befriender after their “friend” has died, but support after this bereavement is limited. Little information is available on the long term effects of grieving for the befriender, why the befriender chose to volunteer and how bereavement affects their continuing to be a volunteer. This short term project would be a start in mapping out the needs of befrienders. 

Current policy on end-of-life care often assumes the role of family in providing support and care for their ageing relatives. Yet the role that others, such as the befrienders, play in this is largely overlooked. The befriending service of Age UK shows the need to look beyond the family unit, to fully understand the range of people that provide support for older people. Since bereavement services are often targeted to family members the emotional impact losing someone through volunteering has not been adequately explored. 

The aim is to hold a focus group among befrienders to explore the feelings and needs of befrienders. At the same time this will be an opportunity for befrienders to meet each other, as there is no “befriending” network available. The aim of this project is to both address the feelings and needs of befrienders after a bereavement, and the support they would like to receive in general.


Project Outputs and Impacts

  • Co-developing a report or leaflet for Age UK to use in the future.
  • Exploring the potential of forming a support network among befrienders going forward
  • Writing a journal publication on the results from the focus group. 

Find out more about this project

Name: Mrs Caron Staley
Title: Centre Manager for Death and Society
Department: Dept of Social and Policy Sciences
Location: 3 East 3.26
E-mail: c.staley@bath.ac.uk
Phone: work+44 (0) 1225 386949