Unique friendship is helping cure 89-year-old’s loneliness
Alan Hill knows how it feels to be lonely.
Fortunately, the 89-year-old also knows the joy that comes from making a new friend in your twilight years.
“I met Morgan about six months ago and he’s changed my life,” the Northern NSW resident says of the 28-year-old he met through In Great Company, the Feros Care program that connects people in need of support and social connection with caring, friendly and enthusiastic volunteers.
“It’s not easy being on your own. I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve felt depressed and thought ‘Geez, is it even worth getting out of bed today’. Some people like their own company and can fill time easily but I like being around people.
“That’s why when Feros Care raised the possibility of someone keeping in touch and taking me for the odd drive, I said ‘Hell yes - anything to get out of the house’. Then Morgan rocked up and we were away.”
An unlikely duo now firm friends
‘Morgan’ is Morgan Miles, one of In Great Company’s big-hearted volunteers who gives up a few hours each week to bring smiles to the faces of seniors seeking companionship.
In Morgan’s case that someone is Alan, a former farmer and contract harvester who lives alone and is navigating the social constraints that come with failing eyesight, no longer being able to drive and the occasional health scare.
Having teamed up about six months ago, the unlikely duo now consider themselves firm friends.
“I knew straight away that this bloke was no fool,” Alan says of his new mate, who served in the Australian Defence Force and is more than six decades his junior.
“He’s only a young man but we are really comfortable with each other. We chat a couple of times a week and every Thursday he picks me up and we go for a drive for the day. He’ll say ‘Where would you like to go’ and I say ‘You’re the captain’.
Filling a void
“I love the country so we’ve done a few great drives through the Hinterland and one time I even took him to visit a mate of mine a couple of hours away. I can’t see my family as often I’d like due to distance and Morgan has filled a void in my life.
“The days he visits can’t come quick enough. It makes my week and I come home feeling great for the rest of the day and already looking forward to his next visit.”
And while getting out of the house is great, Morgan’s presence has brought something even more important to Alan’s life.
“He makes me feel that I’m not just plodding along,” Alan says.
“Morgan calls me a bit of a legend and I laugh at that but he says ‘No, as a younger man I see someone who has done a lot over the years and has still got the will to want more from life’. That makes me feel damn good.
Happiness through true connection
“And it goes both ways. Morgan has taught me things I haven’t thought of before. There’s a big difference in our ages but I find him interesting and appreciate all that he’s done in his 28 years. We’ve had some great chats about life.
“It gives you hope that people still want to be friends with you.”
Theirs is no superficial friendship either.
Alan has opened up to Morgan about his regrets, his past loves and the heartache of losing three of his six children, two of them when they were teenagers. Morgan has reflected with Alan about how his world was shattered three years ago when he was forced to medically retire from the army.
And that connection is something Alan wishes more seniors could experience.
“I can’t recommend In Great Company enough,” he says.
“I know people who don’t do anything, go nowhere, but I also know life is not going to come to me. I have to get out there and help myself and since I met Morgan I’m happier by a mile.
“I understand people get more isolated as they get older but as long as my legs can still carry me, I won’t quit. I’ve got a lot of living I still want to do and being friends with Morgan is one sure way I can achieve that.”
Want to get involved?
See what being a volunteer with In Great Company is all about and how you could make a positive difference in someone's life, by signing up for our volunteer newsletter.