Lifeline lets older people pick up their lives again

Riviera Lifeline helps with the parallel need to give assistance to people struggling in their own homes

From feeding a cat while the owner is in hospital, to tackling administration and financial problems, Riviera Lifeline helps older English-speakers in the Var and Alpes-Maritimes who face difficulties in everyday life and are struggling to remain independent.

Set up just over a year ago, it is a sister to the Sunnybank charity which has been in existence since 1892 and which helps people in care homes and hospitals. 

President Deborah Cortey said: “There are a surprising number of English-speakers who have lived in this part of the world for 30, 40 or even 50 years and are now seeing their pensions getting smaller and smaller and suddenly find the bill for the taxe foncière arrives or the car breaks down and they do not have enough money to pay.

“Some speak very little French and panic when they receive an official letter that they do not understand. Often they will put it in a drawer and the next thing they know, they have the bailiffs at the door.

“Others are isolated because they have lost a partner and they do not drive. It can be an accumulation of many little things which can lead to the person falling into depression.”

Its 25 volunteers cover a huge geographical area, stretching from Toulon in the west to the foothills of the Alps, and Mrs Cortey says they can usually get someone to visit a person who has asked for help within two days.

“We never know what we might find and what help may be needed, but once there we can assess the situation and work something out. We can give financial assistance to get people back on their feet and we have a committee which looks at each case. It may be the price of a pair of glasses, so that person can watch TV again, or paying a heating bill to get someone through the winter. Often a relatively small sum of money can do wonders.

“Other people might need social contact and a volunteer may take them out for a cup of coffee once a week, for example. We share premises with other English-speaking groups at the Grange at Mouans-Sartoux. There we put on free lunches and coffee mornings in an informal setting, so we can take people along to that.

“It has a large collection of bric-a-brac and secondhand books, which they can browse and buy for about a euro. It can give them an outing.”

One person who has benefited from Riviera Lifeline is Kate (surname withheld to protect identity). A serious medical condition meant she was becoming negligent with her medication and not eating well so the Life­line organised ‘meals-on-wheels’.

Her friends and family are amazed at the difference this has made, giving her a more positive outlook on life.

Mrs Cortey says they would love to have more volunteers: “We are looking for people who like people. This is essential as you have to be prepared to sit and listen while somebody offloads their problems.

“We would also welcome more French speakers to help unravel administrative situations. There are very many ways to volunteer. We have men who work and do not have much time, but they are good with technology and an hour spent fixing someone’s TV can be a real help.”

You can apply to volunteer or ask for help for yourself or for someone you know in difficulty via the website
rivieralifeline.org or via email info@rivieralifeline.org or 04 89 82 68 51. 

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