Performing one of the community's most needed, but perhaps underrated services, Mollie Loftus has been recognised for quietly serving older members of the Kāpiti community for more than 20 years.

Since November 1997 Mollie has been visiting elderly people in Kāpiti.

Visiting them in their homes, taking them out for coffee or shopping and for some of them being the family they don't have, Mollie has been there through thick and thin.

With New Zealand's ageing population and with loneliness and isolation being one of the most pressing issues for elderly New Zealanders, Mollie started volunteering with Age Concern after her husband died.

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The Ministry of Social Development's The Social Report 2016 found 10 per cent of New Zealanders aged 65-74, and 13 per cent of those aged over 75 feel lonely all, most, or some of the time.

The report states this is important, not just because loneliness is painful, but because having inadequate social relationships has been shown to be as bad for health as smoking.

Loneliness has also been linked to increased likelihood of entering rest home care.
Simply put, Mollie keeps people company.

As an accredited visitor, Mollie is part of Age Concern's befriending service that provides regular visits to older people who would like more company.

Visitors volunteer for around an hour a week spending time with an older person enjoying conversation, shared interests and activities.

"It's very rewarding. They match you up with people to visit, and I visit weekly with those who are lonely.

"I recognise the importance of having someone make the effort to visit and show an interest in them.

"Depending on their circumstances, we visit them in their home, take them out for coffee, and just befriend them.

"You do become really attached to them."

One such person Mollie was paired up with was a lady originally from Europe who had no family in New Zealand.

"I turned out to be her family here as she had no one else."

As the recipient of Age Concern New Zealand's monthly award this month, Mollie has been acknowledged for over 20 years of volunteering with the organisation, being named an Age Concern New Zealand Dignity Champion.

Age Concern New Zealand cheif executive Stephanie Clare said, "You embody our Dignity Champions pledge because you build relationships that combat isolation and recognise the uniqueness of every individual".

With visits dating back to November 1997, Accredited Visiting Service Kapiti coordinator Alison Miller said, "She visited her first client for six years and her second one she visited for 12 years.

"Mollie was brilliant, she went way above her role in supporting these people."

Some stated they would have been incredibly lost without Mollie's support over the years.
Perhaps one of the humblest people, Mollie said, "I like doing things behind the scenes, I don't do it for publicity.

"I suggest others to do similar because it is very rewarding and needed work."