The story of Fred and Keith, an unlikely friendship nurtured through the In Great Company program. Keith, a retiree seeking purpose, discovered it in volunteering. Now, he meets weekly with Fred for their down-to-earth, blokey conversations that have unexpectedly enriched both of their lives.
In the beginning
Keith first learned about In Great Company through his local Tursa Employment Agency while exploring volunteer opportunities during a job search. Having been on a career pension for the past 15 years and dealing with the loss of his wife about two years ago, life at 65 was not what he had imagined. He was feeling lost, especially given his lack of formal qualifications and the limited work prospects for individuals his age in Port Macquarie.
Upon relocating to Port Macquarie, Fred found himself in need of care and companionship, but had no one to turn to. So, when his family introduced him to Feros Care, his Wellbeing Manager, Nicole, assured him that she could arrange the assistance he needed, along with the added benefit of the Volunteer program.
Their first meeting
Keith’s first visit with Fred took place at Fred’s home, with Nicole, Fred’s brother, and his brother’s wife. To each other’s relief, they hit it off right from the start.
For Keith: “Fred was somewhat reserved in the beginning, but he’s become quite chatty over time. We engage in conversations about footy, horses, and sports in general. I had hoped our meetings would be a positive experience, and I’m happy to say that they’ve proven to be enjoyable for both of us.”
For Fred: “I got on with him as a friend immediately from the first visit, and Nicole along with my family were there to make sure everything went ok.”
What do your visits look like?
In Keith’s efforts to make their time together as engaging as possible, he often asks Fred if he’d like to go for a drive or visit his place. He tries to offer a variety so that their Tuesdays don’t become monotonous.
Back at Keith’s place, they watch footy games, particularly those featuring the Roosters, and share thoughts about the matches.
“We talk about what should have happened in the game and just real bloke footy talk.”
They have also explored the countryside outside Wauchope and Beechwood, places Fred has never been to before, and he’s expressed how much he’s enjoyed these outings. On one memorable occasion, they took a trip to the North Shore which included a car ferry ride.
“We went on the ferry, which was a great chance for me to visit a special place, something I don’t get to do often nowadays. I really enjoyed it,” beams Fred.
Impact of their friendship
Keith’s relationship with Fred has slowly evolved over time. Their weekly visits have brought Fred out of his shell, and now he’s much more expressive.
For Keith: “It’s fulfilling to think that I might be the highlight of his day, as he often expresses relief when we head out somewhere. Seeing the transformation in Fred has made me more attuned to the loneliness that can affect seniors in our community. I’ve observed others in his village sitting alone and realised the profound impact companionship can have.”
For Fred: “He is a friend of mine, and I always look at him as a good friend, who treats me with respect. I am a person who likes to enjoy my life, going out, and doing things. It’s been a very positive change to get out and about, whether we go to Keith’s place or out for a drive. I look forward to Keith’s visits each week.”
Words of advice for those considering similar volunteering
Keith: “I would wholeheartedly recommend volunteering with seniors to everyone. It’s a rewarding challenge and offers a sense of satisfaction that surpasses other types of volunteering, such as my previous role at the Salvation Army. This experience allows me to interact with people and bring joy to their lives. By helping someone and bringing joy to their life, you not only make a difference in their world but also enrich your own.”
He continues: “These Tuesday outings have given a new sense of purpose to my week. I wake up with a renewed enthusiasm, knowing that I can take Fred out and that I have something meaningful to look forward to. It’s been a source of genuine contentment for me, making me feel better from the inside out.”
Fred: “I would highly recommend it to a senior. It’s not just a good thing; it’s a rewarding and fulfilling experience that can make a meaningful change to your daily life.”