The former national newspaper journalist who runs ‘YOPEY Befriender’ – the growing scheme that recruits young people to volunteer in care homes – was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours on June 17.
Tony Gearing describes his work, endorsed by two prime ministers, one deputy prime minister and a chancellor among other national figures, as “two-way street between young and old where both benefit”.
He started YOPEY Befriender in 2013 after becoming aware of the loneliness of many elderly people. After taking YOPEY Befriender into care homes he realised he needed to learn about dementia and pass these skills on to the young people who volunteer to become YOPEY Befrienders.
He and his wife Jo, who also works of the organisation, are Dementia Champions with the Alzheimer’s Society.
Tony is currently running YOPEY Befriender schemes in 8 care homes, including ones run by independent operators as well as major chains. Care UK is a new customer, having recently commissioned him to set up YOPEY Befriender schemes in three of its homes.
“We are growing fast,” said Tony. “I have six new YOPEY Befriender schemes to launch this autumn. But it is hugely satisfying work, bringing the generations together in support and friendship.”
Tony added: “The MBE is also for all the adults I roped in to help and for my wife Jo who keeps my nose to the grindstone and gives me some of my best ideas.”