Voluntary work: a reader for the elderly


“No, no tinc mòbil” (I don’t have a mobile phone) she chuckles. “I am from a different era and I am not going to change my ways now” she says as she brings the conversation to a close before hanging up. Isobel is an 89 year-old lady from Barcelona. She is a retired Classics teacher, food and book lover, and seriously animated. She turns to me and we resume our conversation about when we’ll next meet and she wishes me well on my trip home. “Send my regards to your parents”, “kisses to your mother”, “bon viatja”, “adéu bonica!” Once again, an hour and a half has flown by in our hour’s reading session and the book remains unopened. We often end up chatting and telling each other our own stories.

Like many elderly people, Isobel’s vision isn’t as good as it used to be and she struggles to read. I signed up to do some voluntary work through my local library in Sagrada Família and liked the idea of reading to someone – and that is how we we met. In the beginning I went once a week for an hour and gradually it turned into two visits, or sometimes more. Why? Because we get on. We keep each other company – and sometimes we do actually read (we particularly enjoy the interviews at the back of La Vanguardia, as they always feature somebody with something interesting to say).

The funny thing is that I think she has helped me more than I have helped her.

You can  sign up as a volunteer at any library in Barcelona (membership is free)




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