Grieving Eastbourne man sets up group to tackle loneliness

Frederick Smith the founder of Just Friends social group  (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Frederick Smith the founder of Just Friends social group (Photo by Jon Rigby)

An Eastbourne man who was left suffering alone when his wife died set up a group to combat loneliness in the town.

Frederick Smith said when she was alive he would go with his wife Valerie, who had dementia, to clubs for people who had dementia and their carers.

Just Friends meet at The Alice Croft House in Cornfield Lane in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby)

Just Friends meet at The Alice Croft House in Cornfield Lane in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby)

But when she died, he said, “All the clubs said you can’t come any more, you aren’t a carer. She was not just my wife, she was my best friend and soul mate. 
“I thought that’s when I needed the support. I was really angry. There was nothing around. I channelled that anger and made this.”

We are Just Friends, or Just Friends for short, is the group Frederick made for people like him to meet up and make friends.

The 88-year-old said, “It gives people a reason to get up in the morning. You can understand when people lose their loved ones they are lost.

“It’s helped me because you can focus on something. It’s not regimented, we do what we want to do.

Gilly Lewis with Frederick Smith the founder of Just Friends social group  (Photo by Jon Rigby)

Gilly Lewis with Frederick Smith the founder of Just Friends social group (Photo by Jon Rigby)

“There’s no membership fee, there’s no expectations. It’s very laid back. It keeps me out of mischief”

Anybody who lives alone is welcome to Just Friends, which meets each Wednesday from 10am until midday in the Alice Croft House in Cornfield Lane, Eastbourne.

Since it was founded by Frederick in 2018, it has grown and now more than 70 people take part.

They organise trips and activities, such as theatre trips, lunches, walks, historic town visits, and steam train journeys. There is no age limit and carers very are welcome to join.

Frederick said the group’s motto is “farewell loneliness”. He said, “Loneliness is the worst thing to suffer from. There’s no answer to it, just friendship. You need to get out the house and do something with people.”

They are hosting a meal at The Marine, in Seaside, on St George’s Day (April 23), which costs £10.

To find out more about it and Just Friends, contact Frederick on 01323 725882 or Gilly Lewis on 01323 365389.

Read more: Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign launches in Sussex

Loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and worse for you than obesity