An 86-year-old Plymouth man who struggled with loneliness after the death of his wife has found new hope with the help of a local secondary school and a campaign supported by Age UK called ‘Be A Friend’.  Cyril Aggett is now invited to have lunch regularly with the students at Coombe Dean secondary school and he’s credited it with helping him enjoy life again.

Suddenly Alone

Cyril and his late wife Shirley lived close to Coombe Dean secondary school and were well recognised in the local area.  But Cyril suddenly found himself alone when Shirley passed away six years ago.  His grief was so overwhelming that he wasn’t able to leave the house for a month.  Noticing this, kind members of staff from the school called him to check up on him and offer support.  It was then that they invited Cyril to have lunch with schoolchildren and he decided to give it a try.  Cyril told The Sun Online:

"It can be very lonely living alone, once you go inside that door. When I first came here, I was down in the dumps. I get a cup of tea, my lunch and good service."

(Sun Online, 2019)

New-Found Friends

Now, Cyril heads to the school every day for lunch and for some company.  He’s become a familiar face in the lunch hall where he enjoys his food and chats to students and staff alike.  During the school holidays, the dinner ladies make Cyril extra batches of food so he doesn’t go without.  For Cyril, having people around to talk to is the thing that makes the most difference to his day.  He said to The Sun Online:

"Everybody talks to me. The office staff are brilliant…I come down here and see the children, a lot of them talk to me. I love the company and noise."

(Sun Online, 2019)

Be A Friend

The ‘Be a Friend’ campaign was launched in time for the 2019 Christmas season by the charity Age UK in partnership with a local website, Plymouth Live.  It was developed in response to a statistic released by Age UK that half a million older people in the UK regularly go at least five or six days without talking to anyone.  It encouraged people to take notice of older people in their area, take the time to check in on them or to just to stop and chat as it can make a world of difference to a lonely person.  Certainly, for Cyril, the effects of his lunchtime visits have changed his life for the better.  He concluded:

"I’d be lost if I didn’t come here."

(Sun Online, 2019)

To find out how you can get involved with Age UK initiatives, follow the link.

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