A charity is appealing for more volunteers to be friends for lonely and isolated older people.
Age UK launched its Befriending Network in Hartlepool last year and in its first 12 months helped 56 individuals.
But the service is struggling to recruit enough volunteers to act as befrienders to keep up with demand.
Anne Sykes, chief executive of Age UK Teesside, said: “There is always more people on the waiting list than we have got volunteers. “We are trying to grow the service and would welcome as many people as would like to come on board.
“It is a brilliant service and really does work well but it does rely on volunteers.
The Befriending Network seeks to match up people who share similar interests.
It is promoted through residents’ groups, GP practices and the Hartlepool Now website.
Befienders volunteer a mimimum of just one hour a week to spend with soneone who is lonely or socially isolated.
Anne said: “That person looks forward to them going. The long term aim is to take the person out and get them involved in the community and be able to start going to things on their own where they can make friends.”
The service received great feedback from users as well as the befrienders.
Ivy Dobby, aged 86, who has limited mobility, has been visited weekly by Adele Taylor since January.
Anne said: “One of the ladies that I befriend said to me ‘I feel as though I am back in the community again’.”
The Befriending Network was highlighted by Hartlepool Borough Council’s Adult Services Committee last week as an example of projects working to tackle the issue of social isolation in Hartlepool.
Jill Harrison, the council’s director of adult and community based services, said: “There’s an awful lot of positive work going on.
“We are starting to see some real benefits from these projects.”
The committee heard an estimated that 35% of older people in Hartlepool live alone.
In a recent survey of adult service users, around half said they would like more social contact.
Other projects going on in Hartlepool are Project 65 which loans electronic tablets to older people and Cleveland Fire Brigade helping older people in home safety checks.
For more infrmation about the Befriending Network call Age UK Teesside on (01642) 805500.