A 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’s work has been endorsed by two prime ministers, one deputy prime minister and a chancellor among other national figures. Tony describes YOPEY Befriender as a “two-way street between young and old where both benefit”.
Logan Logeswaran, the Managing Director of the Runwood Group, the first of several care home companies to use YOPEY Befriender, said: “I have seen for myself the results of the scheme in our care homes, which I believe will educate all the students that participate to have a better understand of the elderly and the people who care for them, and in turn make these young people better citizens in the future.
“Tony’s enthusiasm for his work and the effort he puts into making it right for everyone involved is worthy of recognition in the honours list.”
Tony used to work for the print media – he rose to be a deputy editor on the Daily Telegraph – but left full-time journalism to set up YOPEY, which stands for Young People of the Year in the early noughties.
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 for 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 continues to use his journalistic skills to place positive stories about care homes taking part in YOPEY Befriender in the media. “We have had double-page spreads in weekly and daily newspapers, and magazine features, as well as many shorter stories, all showing care homes in a good light,” said Tony.
Speaking about his honour, which he will go to Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle to receive from the Queen in the next few months, Tony said: “I haven’t achieved this alone. This MBE is for all the young people who are YOPEY Befrienders. They are all helping to bring extra joy into the lives of care home residents and relieve a little of the pressure on care home staff. The young also receive knowledge, wisdom and life lessons that will stand them in good stead for the future.”
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.”
Tony is interested in hearing from care homes that would like to make a donation to the YOPEY charity in return for having a YOPEY Befriender scheme. He is also interested in hearing from companies that provide products or services to care homes who would like to sponsor schemes as a way of promoting their business.
The UK Government’s website says an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) is “awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community. This will have had a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others”.
For more information visit yopey.org