Sheffield pals 45 years apart prove 'age is just a number' when it comes to friendship

On paper they may sound like unlikely pals.But Les Wainwright, aged 70, and 24-year-old Matt Hallam are proving ‘age is just a number’ when it comes to friendship.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 6:00 am
Carol and Dorothy are another pair who were connected through b:friend

Les has lived on his own for several years and was put in contact with Matt though B:Friend, a Sheffield-based charity aiming to tackle loneliness so that he would have someone to talk to on a weekly basis - and the pair hit it off from their very first phone call.

Les said: “I treat Matt as a friend. We are both interested in football and horse racing. We text each other tips for races and we take the mick if they don’t come in.

“We went to a pub with three of his mates. They were talking about music I’d never heard of. Their music is totally different and some of it’s quite good.

Matt Hallam enjoys volunteering and says he gets a buzz out of helping other people.

"It’s really funny when I talk to Matt about something and it’s from before he was born - like Lester Piggot, the jockey.

“Older people live in the past. Nostalgia can be a good thing but if you’re depressed you tend to ruminate.

“I’ve been living on my own for a while. I was really depressed and lost touch with my family. One year my brother died and I didn’t go to his funeral because I wasn’t well. It was a really bad time.

“I had a mental health team before and they were just terrible, in the end they just disregarded me.

Mike is the founder and CEO of b:friend.

"Matt is a really nice lad. He supports Preston and I support Sheffield Wednesdays so we have a bit of banter about that.

“I would say to people thinking of volunteering for this scheme that you are giving up some of your own time to help others and it really makes a difference.

Research compiled by B:Friend suggests that loneliness can increase a person’s chance of mortality by 26 per cent, and is also a factor in early entry into residential or nursing care.

Matt, who is a student support officer at University of Sheffield, explained why he decided to start volunteering with B:Friend during lockdown.

Les Wainwright, 70, says that he and Matt hit it off from their first phone call.

He said: “It was so repetitive, not being able to go out. It was an absolutely monotonous routine. I was lucky because I was living with my girlfriend and it made me think about people in social isolation.

“I wanted to give something back and it helped me as I had another person to talk to.

“I get a great buzz from helping other people out. I have done a lot of volunteering with other charities back home in Manchester.

“B:Friend paired me up with someone with similar interests and the first phone call was like we’d spoken for ages before. It wasn’t awkward at all, it was completely natural. It doesn’t feel like I’m volunteering anymore.

Les and Matt plan to meet up at Hillsborough Stadium

“I’ve got plans to invite Les round for a roast dinner with my girlfriend and two mates.

"I think that for such a small commitment, about an hour a week, it can really make a difference to a person’s life. It’s nice to speak to someone new.

“I think in this case age is just a number.”

Matt and Les were planning to meet again in person but their plans were delayed when Matt had to isolate after catching Covid-19.

They are planning to watch a football match at Hillsborough Stadium together in January.

B:friend has paired 800 people in the last year and needs volunteers to continue its life-changing work.

Visit letsbfriend.org.uk to find out more.