Be A Friend '12

Young People of the Year

Revealing, Recognising and Rewarding Positive Role Models

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Teenagers urged to befriend old folk

A young people’s champion has called upon sixth-formers to befriend an elderly neighbour – and boost their job chances. 

“The problem of loneliness among the elderly is huge,” said Tony Gearing, who founded YOPEY (YOung PEople of the Year), which promotes young positive role models. “Half of all people aged over 74 live alone, and 1 in 10 over-64s feel lonely much or all of the time. 

“That’s more than a million members of the older generation whose loneliness could be eased relatively easily by the younger generation.” 

So YOPEY, which has run 50 Young People of the Year contests in England and Scotland since 2004, has built on that success by setting up a befriending scheme. 

“Shockingly, half of all older people consider the TV their ‘best friend’. Fear of young people adds to their isolation.

“If young people could become true friends to the elderly, everyone would benefit. The timing could not be better with everyone facing a tough year.” 

Mr Gearing wants sixth-formers to sign up with the new befriending scheme. Visit yopey.org website and follow links to ‘Be A Friend’ to receive advice and what to do next. 

”Let’s start by linking up as many Year 12s as possible with one elderly person each near their homes. You’d be surprised – there’s probably an elderly person living alone in your street.

“There’s no need for you to give up a great deal of your time – all we are asking for is an hour a week. But whatever little you can give will make a big difference.”

While the old person will be less susceptible to illness and will hopefully come to fear young people less, Mr Gearing is convinced every sixth-former who volunteers will also benefit.

“Older people have life experience and I am sure you will learn a lot from them.”

Any teenager who signs up and then visits the same elderly person regularly for at least three months will be eligible for a YOPEY certificate to add to their CV or personal statement for university, thereby boosting their job chances. 

YOPEY is looking for companies to sponsor  Young People of the Year contests in 2012. Winners, aged 10-25, share cash prizes with the community.  

Mr Gearing’s work has been praised by national leaders, including the Prime Minister. David Cameron said: “I congratulate you on creating a truly inspirational social enterprise.”

© YOPEY registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales as charity number 1145573
Registered with the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales as company number 7751145

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