Young People of the Year

Revealing, Recognising and Rewarding Positive Role Models

What is 'YOPEY Befriender'?

YOPEY Befriender is an offshoot of Young People of the Year where young people are offered the opportunity to join a scheme where they give to their local community.

In particular they are asked to befriend residents in care homes local to their school.

YOPEY Befriender was started in 2013 after YOPEY founder Tony Gearing became aware of surveys into the lonely elderly. It was found that more than one million people over the age of 65 considered themselves lonely most or all of the time. Some 400,000 considered a pet or the TV as their ‘best friend’.

Tony quickly calculated that there was one million sixth-formers in the UK and if these could be persuaded to identify who lived alone in their street and offer to visit them, this problem could soon be solved.

“My initial idea was that the sixth-formers would go along to the lonely person's home and offer to visit them once a week ” said Tony. “But I was advised this was too risky, putting vulnerable young people with vulnerable old people in an unsupervised environment.”

Not to be defeated, Tony wondered how he could come up with a scheme that achieved similar goals without compromising safety. He thought of care homes and contact Runwood Group, which has over 60 care homes and has been a regular Young People of the Year sponsor for several years.

Runwood embraced the YOPEY Befriender scheme and the rest, as they say, is history.

Talk Tony gives schools

This is a typical talk that YOPEY founder Tony Gearing gives to schools to recruit YOPEY Befrienders:

"You won’t know this now but you are probably at the most popular time of your life. Never again will you have as many friends as you do in the sixth-form at Poole Grammar School. Fast forward 50 years from now – I know that is almost impossible to imagine. (But if you can) from your late 60s you will almost certainly have the fewest friends of your life. Perhaps none at all.

This bleak reality is backed up by surveys. More than one million

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Young given dementia training

YOPEY Befriender Tony Gearing soon realised there was a second element to the scheme – typically two-thirds of the residents in care homes have dementia and YOPEY had to ensure the young people were prepared for this.

YOPEY Befrienders are given training by dementia champions before they can start visiting care homes. Once they have been trained they are set the goal of visiting residents for an hour a week for a year.

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Try MindMate app for free

MindMate is an app, available for android and Apple devices, that is, at the time of writing for, free.

Download it to your device and take along to the care home to play with your elderly friends.

To find out more

and then follow links from this website to download for free...

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10 ideas for what to do with your YOPEY friend

From tea and chat to organising a celebration

Not believing in ‘reinventing the wheel’, YOPEY founder Tony Gearing found these befriender activity advice sheets some time ago. He can’t even remember where. He believes they come from a chain of care homes and it is care homes that are being referred to when the sheets use the word organisation.

Download the activity or activities that appeal to you. Before you put an activity into practice discuss it with staff at the care home where you are a YOPEY

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Experience life with dementia...

Experience difficulties a person with dementia can have walking home or making tea in 360° films made by Alzheimer's Research charity.
Go to awalkthroughdementia and scroll to bottom of page and watch the films on your computer or tablet. Alternatively download an app from same website to android phones, order your cardboard headset and experience the full virtual reality.

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Life Story challenge for YOPEY Befrienders

YOPEY Befrienders are being encouraged to put together Life Stories on the friends they make in care homes.

These colourful scrapbooks, full of dates, thoughts, photos and other mementoes are wonderful souvenirs for the families of residents, who are asked to cooperate in their making.

The young people are also asked to make a second copy, which can be used by the care home to care for the subjects. New staff can open them and instantly they can have ideas about what to talk about with the resident.

Here are two life stories made

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Life Story 8 steps to creation

Step 1 – get permission

Before starting to create a Life Story book, it is important to seek the permission of your subject-to-be, who should be a resident in the care home with whom you have developed a close relationship. If the person has dementia it maybe difficult to get their permission so you will need the permission of a key family member. The care home you visit will put you in touch with the family or may even seek permission for you. But it is important to have the names of family members and contact details as you will need to contact them for

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Life Story stuck for questions? Try these...

Once the care home and relatives – or your elderly friend if they are able to make this decision – have agreed to you compiling a Life Story, the next thing to do is to compile a list of questions.

If you get stuck at this stage, try these three 'writing scaffolds' compiled by Anchor, a charity that runs care homes.

Life story questions part A – a quick summary. Click here to download.

Life story questions

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Life Stories made by YOPEY Befrienders

Belgian Raymond was a 'Tommy bride'. She married a British soldier after the Second World War and came to England to live. Download Ray's Life Story created by a YOPEY Befriender by clicking here...

Roy travelled the world putting on exhibitions and was 'famous' for losing his trousers at Christmas parties. Download Roy's Life Story created by a YOPEY Befriender by clicking here...


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