I first discovered how much the elderly have to offer when I taught the residents of a care home how to use Wii games consoles. I was 16 then and it was so much fun - I loved hearing all the residents’ stories.
One, called Charlie, had so many happy memories of his life working as a bricklayer, which he’d absolutely loved. He really inspired me.
For so many young people, life’s all about celebrities and money, image and fame. Charlie taught me that whatever you do, as long as you’ve adored it, you can be fulfilled by, and passionate about, the life you’ve lived. That’s what counts!
I later volunteered to visit an elderly lady for an hour every week. Apart from brief visits from carers, Pat spent her days alone and she wanted someone to chat and play Scrabble with. She was such a character.
Soon Pat was one of my closest friends – and she said she felt the same about me. Sadly Pat's died now, but she had such a positive influence on me. She taught me to always be myself and never let anyone else tell me who I can be.
I hope I can persuade other young people to visit a lonely elderly person and discover how incredibly enjoyable and rewarding it can be. An hour a week is not a lot to give but the impact on the person you visit is incredible. It makes them realise there’s someone out there who cares – they’re not alone.