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Grandfather praises ‘lifeline’ Oddfellows friendship group

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 August 2020

John Leggett from Ipswich with Kevin and Teresa Marrable, Mark Keable and Wendy Cook. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

John Leggett from Ipswich with Kevin and Teresa Marrable, Mark Keable and Wendy Cook. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

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A grandfather who was bereft when his wife of 51 years was taken into a care home has praised a friendship group which has been a “lifeline” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

John Leggett, 73, from Ipswich, said his life was turned upside down when his wife Mary went into hospital after a fall and never returned home, instead being moved into a nursing home with 24-hour care.

But he says the support of the Oddfellows – a group which aims to improve the quality of people’s lives through friendship – has been a lifeline.

John said even though he is able to see Mary regularly, with twice weekly video calls during lockdown, her absence from the home has left him feeling lonely and isolated.

He said: “We were a very happy couple, we did everything together, so when she wasn’t there it was very uncomfortable.

“It’s not grief because I get to see her, but our lives have changed dramatically.

“We didn’t think about it at the time, but we were equal, we cared for each other.

“It’s interesting because now she’s in a care home I realise how I needed her just as much as she needed me, both for the social and the welfare side.”

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John, who is a father of two and grandfather of five, is sharing his story as part of the Oddfellows Friendship month.

This is a series of events held every September where non-members can meet members and learn about the group and its benefits.

He said: “My wife is always on my mind, but lots of people ask about her and it makes me feel good to talk about our happy memories.

“Our relationship has changed a lot because of the dementia but the Oddfellows is a happy constant.

“The Oddfellows is one of the few places I go where I feel totally comfortable.

“It’s like a family, it’s lovely to just have someone to chat to, but you also get emotional support that you can only really get from your peers or people who perhaps have been through a similar thing.”

Despite ongoing social restrictions, Oddfellows branches have revealed big plans for its annual Friendship Month celebrations.

Lynne Wyatt, secretary of the Oddfellows Ipswich Branch, said: “2020 has seen a big shift in the way we work, live and most importantly, socialise.

“At the Oddfellows we recognise that people still want, and need, to meet up and make new friends – whether that’s safely out in the community or from the comfort of their own home.

“It’s not just lockdown that can cause people to lose touch. Bereavement, caring responsibilities, moving away, family leaving home, retirement and many other life changes can leave anyone, no matter their age, open to feelings of loneliness and isolation.”


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