A CHARITY is appealing for volunteers in Sussex to help older people who have been unable to socialise since the pandemic.

Re-engage, which is dedicated to ending loneliness and isolation for those aged 75 and over, is rebuilding its network of free Sunday tea parties throughout the UK and needs coordinators willing to spend a few hours overseeing the gatherings.

The charity currently has nearly 160 volunteers in the county who regularly provide a location for tea, sandwiches and cake for more than 80 older people. These guests are also driven to and from the tea parties.

However, the charity is facing a shortage of coordinators in some parts of the county, including Bognor, Brighton, Crowborough, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Littlehampton, Shoreham and Worthing.

Meryl Davies, CEO of Re-engage, said: “Before the pandemic, our monthly tea parties provided a vital lifeline for older people who barely saw another person from one week to the next.

“Two years of lockdowns and uncertainty have left many of them lacking the confidence to get back into the outside world.

“We want them to start socialising again so they do not feel they have been left behind, but to do that we need local community leaders prepared to devote a few hours which can change so many lives.

“Our tea parties are the perfect remedy for those feeling isolated, probably even more so since the pandemic gripped the country, and we want to provide a service that will bring some happiness to their lives. Without coordinators, we can’t do that.

“Loneliness is a serious health issue and, with the over-75s one of the fastest-growing populations, it needs urgent attention.”

Mary, who is partially blind and was recently widowed after being married for 60 years, said: “I have no friends and I haven’t got a big family. I can’t go out much, so I really look forward to the Sunday outings.

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoy them. I don’t know what I would do without the tea parties. If I don’t have them, I have nothing.”

People can contact Re-engage to become a coordinator through the charity’s website or by calling 0207 240 0630.