With her son and his family busy with their own lives, Bella began to miss company and to feel like she “didn’t have her own things going on”. She also wanted to spend time with people her own age. “You have common things to talk about,” she said.
After a hospital visit, Bella’s GP referred her to an Enliven HomeShare service in Christchurch to help her get out of the house and meet friends. Even though she knew she would be the only non-Pakeha in the HomeShare group, Bella wasn’t nervous. “I was just excited and happy,” she said.
On HomeShare days, Bella is transported to the venue and back, and she enjoys a hot meal—a vegetarian one for her—plus games and activities. “We go out for walks, which I really like, and every time we have something different to do,” said Bella. “But by talking to each other, we are making each other happy. Just talking is so important.” Bella observes that even quiet people are included at HomeShare. “The volunteers walk the quieter people to the table and include them in the activities,” she said.
Bella has always been an active person, so she also enthusiastically helps out. “I get picked up early so I told Isabel, our HomeShare host that if there is anything I can do to help, I want to do it. Now I set out tea cups before the meeting starts.”
Bella’s Sydney-based daughter calls her regularly and one day she commented that Bella sounded “very happy today”. “I’d been to HomeShare,” Bella recalled. “I did feel happy after being with other people.”
Bella wishes the HomeShare service were available in Fiji, because she knows there are so many lonely women who need it. And of lonely older people in New Zealand she said, “There may be people around who are lovely but have no friends. I wish they could come to know and join the group. People talk about love, and when you go to HomeShare, you find love.”
*Names and photos have been changed to protect privacy