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“Emergency neurosurgery, a few years back, gave me a dramatic preview of what it’s like to feel alone, frail and unable to get out-and-about. During months of recovery, I experienced first-hand the isolating nature of a serious illness. Once I realized my working life was over, I could get on with whatever else life had planned for me. My new mission: to put my recently-acquired knowledge of neuroplasticity to work.”

To help Hester meet that objective, Better Living volunteer coordinators signed her up for the Friendly Visiting team.

“I now make a weekly visit to a new friend in my neighbourhood who is experiencing the effects of isolation — and is a caregiver herself. On my initial get-to-know-you visit, I spotted word games galore on the coffee table and knew we had something important in common. Once a week I drop by for a chat (I always learn something about food, culture or history in our talks), then we play board games, share a cup of tea and chat some more. As I get to know my new friend better, we always enjoy a few laughs.

“I’m still at a stage where most social activity (parties, meals, meetings) leave me feeling depleted, but this friendly visit always leaves me feeling refreshed and renewed. It’s the right kind of commitment for me. We both value our competitive games and share the benefits.  For instance, my friend values the wordplay in our Scrabble games, and I keep score because math is what I need to work on. That type of win-win seems to be volunteering in a nutshell.”