How one Wandsworth neighbourhood is combatting loneliness for elderly residents

By Frank Pachas
July 9 2020, 22.06

The number of people aged 65 and over living alone in the UK increased by more than half a million between 2014 and 2019, according to the ONS.

One of them is Sydney Stewart, 90, a Wandsworth resident, who was cut off from the outside world when lockdown was imposed four months ago.

His life would’ve been far more difficult, had he not met Alyssia White and Hannah Tamar.

FUN TIMES: Hannah, Sydney and Alyssia (left-right)

Mr Stewart, from Southcroft Road in Tooting who lost his wife about six years ago, said: “I don’t know what to say really. I’m delighted to have met these pairs of nutters and I am so grateful for what they’ve been doing for me.”

Ms White, 30, a freelance yoga instructor, and Ms Tamar, 27, originally from Australia, decided to do their bit for Tooting by helping their neighbours.

Since then, the volunteers have left on Sydney’s doorstep his favourite papers, meals and food shopping as he couldn’t go out because of the pandemic.

Ms White said: “Sydney has a heart of gold and is a jolly spirit. He is always asking how we are, what we are up to and then tells us a glorious tale.”

Ms Tammar, who works as an events coordinator, said: “Sydney is so vibrant when he talks to you, or when he opens the door you see his eyes widen, you can tell he really cares for his friends and family in his actions.”

Recent nationwide data revealed there were some extra 572,000 men (328,000) and women (244,000) aged 65+ living alone between 2014 and 2019.

Generally, there were more women than men in these age groups living alone each year between 2014 and 2019, but women aged 70-74, and 75+ increased by only 27% and 8% respectively.

Men aged 70-74 increased by 42% and men aged 75+ by 41% — that is from 226,000 to 321,000 for the first group and from 553,000 to 780,000 for the second one between the five-year period.

As Sydney, there are over 10,000 older people living alone in Wandsworth, feeling lonely and unable to get out alone, according to Age UK charity.

Over 8,000 people aged 60+ have been supported in Wandsworth in the last year thanks to the charity’s staff and volunteers’ sense of community.

Paul Taylor, 62, Sydney’s daughter who lives with her husband and children in Southampton, said: “Tooting had no community before. There was nothing when I lived there so it’s just lovely to see how many people are out there helping each other.”

Sydney’s four-generation family

Age UK Community and Wellbeing leader Emma Chisholm said: “We had a huge overwhelming surge of volunteers during Covid, which has been amazing. 

“It’s been an incredible scheme sort of outpouring of support for older people during this climate and we are very much hoping we can continue to use these people going forward”.

Sydney’s four-generation family including two more children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren are looking forward to throwing a party when they finally see him.

For  more information on how to volunteer for older people in Wandsworth, visit:

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