CUT-THROAT competition among charities is leaving older people out in the cold, says a former nursing sister from Elsecar.
Win Noble, 80, is campaigning for more funding and volunteers for Age UK. She says the charity "brought her to life" after she suffered a series of personal tragedies. But she said the organisation is now struggling because giving to charities for the elderly is "unfashionable."
The great grandmother says many elderly people feel "invisible" in a youth-obsessed society.
Demand for Age UK Barnsley services is at its highest since the charity started more than 40 years ago and it is desperate for more help.
But Win says it is falling behind as people prefer to give to other charities like those for children and cancer research.
Win, of Gray Street, was a nursing sister at Mount Vernon Hospital in Barnsley for many years but had to retire early to care for husband Roland, who was a miner at Elsecar pit.
He died in 2001 but in 2005 and 2008 Win - who had six children - lost two of her daughters to brain related illnesses. She began to suffer serious health conditions including diabetes and fell into a deep depression.
"I felt completely lost and abandoned," she said. "On most days I could hardly get out of bed. I felt like a 'non person' with nothing going on in my life and no-one caring."
Win's doctor referred her to a care team who then referred her to Age UK. She was set up with a telephone befriender and a home visiting befriender who told her about Age UK support groups at Queen's Road, Barnsley.
Win said: "I was scared at first. I'd been on my own so long I didn't see anyone else. I had lost the knack of talking. Although I have children some live away and some are not well."
She found Age UK's support groups friendly and helpful.
"It felt like they had wrapped their arms around me from the moment I walked in. Going there brought me back to life."
Win has been going to the groups, which include games and crafts, for three years and runs activities at Age UK's Tuesday Allsorts group at Queen's Road, Barnsley.
But she worries about the future. "Our only income is from selling goods in our five charity shops around Barnsley and competition is fierce as other charity shops are vying for customers.
"Income nowhere near covers our expenses, and volunteers - especially drivers - are desperately needed."
Age UK research shows Barnsley has a minimum of 2,500 elderly people needing support to reduce feelings of isolation.
Ninety-eight per cent of those referred to Age UK Barnsley's befriending service cite loneliness as the reason for referral with 60 per cent spending more than 23 hours a day alone. Shockingly, many consider the television their main form of company.