Unique companionship company relaunches across Lancaster district to end isolation among older people
A business that formed to tackle loneliness and isolation, particularly among older people, is to relaunch.
Fran Frankland and Vivienne Pike run Just Company, a companion service for older people. The service covers Lancaster, Morecambe, North Lancashire and the South Lakes.
"The coronavirus pandemic has given rise to greater empathy among younger people regarding the isolation and loneliness their older relatives can face on a daily basis,"said Vivienne.
"We’re currently receiving increasing numbers of requests from adult children who want us to provide companionship to their elderly relatives."
Pre-pandemic Age UK revealed that around 1.4m older people in England are chronically lonely, and that number is likely to have risen.
"We put our business on hold this last year but now we are thrilled to bring back our much-needed service," Fran explained. "Nothing can beat personal, face-to-face contact.
"Sadly, we’ve seen how some elderly people have deteriorated because they have been on their own for such a long time throughout the pandemic."
Just Company, based in Kirkby Lonsdale, was founded four years ago to bring joy back into older people’s lives.
Clients have on average, around three hours each per week with their companion and they decide together what sort of activities to do. These could include trips on the steam yacht at Coniston, outings to Williamson Park, Lancaster, Sizergh Castle, The Lowry, RSPB Leighton Moss, a drive through bluebell woods, lounging on the beach or a cup of tea at home.
Companions are carefully vetted and are mature and life experienced.
"We aren’t carers or cleaners – we are companions, pure and simple," said Vivienne. "Client and companion are carefully matched, and it’s always the same companion which leads to a genuine friendship."
The company has always worked to strict infection control protocols and these will be even more stringent in the wake of the pandemic.
"We never visit clients if we have even as much as a cold or have been at risk of one," Fran, who lives in Barbon, said. "We’ll also undertake lateral flow tests twice a week as well as using hand sanitiser and masks and cleaning car interiors."
Vivienne and Fran founded the company when the needs of their own older relatives’ lives changed.
Fran, who worked in the public health sector for many years, explained: "At 74my beloved Aunt Gill was vibrant and engaged with her community. Then a fall and major surgery led to her moving away. Stuck at home she became isolated and depressed. I looked for a companion who would take her out, to indulge her in the things that she loved, but found nothing."
Vivienne, who had been a senior account manager with Lloyds Bank, had parents who lived many miles away.
"My mother needed respite from caring for my father who had dementia," she said. "They used to do everything together. The prospect of doing things like going to the theatre alone was overwhelming for her. She needed someone trustworthy to accompany her and share the enjoyment. We needed “just company” but there was no one who provided this specialised service."
The friends joined forces when they realised that there was a gap in the market.
"Our service provides much reassurance for families," said Vivienne. "It’s a relief to them to know that their loved one is out having fun. One client recently thanked us because her mum was laughing again.
"We’re passionate about enabling older people to fulfil their dreams and passions. There is still much in life for people to enjoy and experience."