Janice walked quickly towards me with a large brown and white dog trotting by her side. The beast, Molly, looked like the kind of dog you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley – but she wagged her tail when Janice greeted me. If Janice said I was ok, then we could be friends. Janice is a volunteer visitor with Age Concern Wellington Region. Her ‘client’, Vinny, waited impatiently for my arrival as Janice led me down the long drive to his house.
A mobility scooter was parked neatly by the front door. Inside, some of the curtains were drawn and the television was on, bringing a cosy feeling to the living room. It reminded me of my grandparents’ home. Vinny had probably been tall some decades ago. His slightly shrunken figure shuffled towards me as I entered. He smiled broadly. Molly wagged her tail harder.
“There are cupcakes for you,” he said as Janice made coffee in the kitchen. “I took a long time… choosing them,” he continued.
Janice laughed. “I thought you were going to say you took a long time baking them!”
Molly looked longingly towards the cupcakes.
Janice comes from Yorkshire, just a few miles from Liverpool where Vinny was born. Their accent is similar (although I’m guessing they wouldn’t agree). They have many serendipitous links like having visited some of the same places, and the military – a member of Janice’s family and Vinny used to be in the military.
Janice looked like she felt at home there. She made herself comfortable in the chair next to Vinny’s. She had just come from work and she seemed stressed. As she sat and sipped her coffee, her worries seemed to leave her.
“It’s like we’ve never not known each other, like we’ve always been friends”, Janice said. Vinny nodded. “It’s like I have a new family member”, she added.
“I’m her favourite uncle”, Vinny said proudly.
Age Concern Wellington Region paired Vinny and Janice through the Accredited Visitor Service. Vinny’s wife passed away a few years ago and he was lonely. Although Vinny has a large family, none live in the Wellington Region.
As Janice spoke, Vinny smiled and added a few words of approval. When Vinny spoke, Janice listened attentively. Vinny said his family had made the best decision when they emigrated to New Zealand. For his children’s future, for everything. It was just sad now that his relatives couldn’t visit anymore. Janice felt the same about her own family. They shared jokes, went quiet for a few moments when they spoke of Vinny’s late wife; they also played with Molly the dog.
What struck me the most was how much they both enjoyed being friends. It wasn’t just a volunteer and client relationship anymore: it was a fast friendship akin to family. They understood each other, and the time they spent together each week clearly enriched both their lives.
If you would like to know more about Age Concern Wellington Region’s Accredited Visitor Service, please call 04 499 6648 or email
Lorna Harvey is the Communications Coordinator for Age Concern Wellington Region – and she thankfully likes big dogs like Molly