Lockdown proves no match for ‘silver-surfing’ grandmother

Despite COVID restrictions being in place, Isle of Wight Oddfellows member, Monica Duncan, has ‘zoomed’ across the UK, socialising with other Oddfellows members nationwide, and even made a new friend on her own doorstep.

Left to right; Marilyn, Monica and Maretta enjoy a game of cards over coffee

Monica, 73, who lives in Cowes, is a member of the Vecta branch of the Oddfellows, based at Unity Hall in St Thomas’ Square - and she says she's "busier than ever."

She said: “Surprisingly lockdown has continued to be really sociable for me! Using Zoom and the phone I still ‘see’ and talk to my friends every day. I’ve even been ‘going’ to virtual meetings with other Oddfellows Branches all over the country – which is something I’ve never done before.” 

It’s nice helping others get online and stay connected, but I can’t wait to meet up with them all face to face again. Monica

“I’ve also discovered a fantastic friend on my doorstep! Marilyn and I are both Isle of Wight Oddfellows members and have been going to local events with the group for two years, but only knew each other well enough to say hi to. Right at the start of lockdown our Branch Secretary, Maretta, encouraged us to swap phone numbers with other members, so we could stay in touch – I gave Marilyn my number and we just discovered we had so much in common. 

“We’ve been two years on the periphery – it’s only taken a global pandemic to bring us together!”

Home is where the heart is

Monica, who moved to the Isle of Wight from Northern Ireland five years ago to be nearer her grandchildren, joined the Oddfellows to make new friends for herself. Over the last few years she’s loved joining a likeminded group on theatre trips, playing ten pin bowling and catch up at coffee mornings organised by her local Branch.

Moving to a new place was a tough transition, but the Oddfellows were fantastic in helping me settle into life on the island. Monica

 But with 2020 being such an unusual year, she is now frequently found chatting to fellow members online. Monica has also been helping to organise and manage the Vecta Branch’s weekly Zoom games afternoon.

Monica said: “Moving to a new place was a tough transition, but the Oddfellows were fantastic in helping me settle into life on the island. Straight away I felt very welcomed and made some great friends. I had no idea about who the Oddfellows were, I just saw someone was hosting a cards morning at Unity Hall and went along. I was a little reserved about going but I took a deep breath and went in. I’m so glad I did.

“Thankfully we’ve been able to move quite a lot of events online during lockdown, so I’ve felt as if that much-needed friendship and support has continued to be there.”

Friendship has always been at the heart of everything we do, and despite a worldwide pandemic, this year is no different. We’re still here to welcome old friends, and new. Maretta, Branch Secretary for the Isle of Wight Oddfellows

Staying connected online

After moving 500 miles from her home of 51 years in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, Monica is no stranger to keeping in touch with friends and family via the internet.

But she says the Oddfellows has provided her with a support network she couldn’t live without – both on and offline.

She added: “I got into computers when I was about 50 because at the time, my two sons were both in the Navy and at sea and it was the only way of communicating with them.

“Not all of my fellow Oddfellows are comfortable with computers or going online, so during lockdown I’ve been trying to give something back and share what I’ve learned about being a silver surfer. It’s nice helping others get online and stay connected, but I can’t wait to meet up with them all face to face again. That first Oddfellows meeting is going to be very noisy!” 

Frequent events, hosted safely

Despite ongoing restrictions, the Isle of Wight Oddfellows promises to be as active as ever, offering online events for residents to join in where possible. 

Maretta, centre, organises a wide variety of events for Branch members

Maretta Heap, Branch Secretary at the Oddfellows Vecta Branch, said: “2020 has seen a big shift in the way we work, live and most importantly, socialise, and Monica is a great example of how many of our members have adapted. At the Oddfellows we recognise that people still want, and need, to meet up and make new friends – whether that’s safely out in the community or from the comfort of their own home.

“Friendship has always been at the heart of everything we do, and despite a worldwide pandemic, this year is no different. We’re still here to welcome old friends, and new.” 

A strong support network for whenever you need it

The Oddfellows was originally set up in 1810 to offer workers and their families insurance should they fall on hard times. Today, the Society continues to provide help to its members through difficult periods, with care, welfare and financial support. 

Maretta added: “Friendship isn’t just for the good times. Friends provide support through thick and thin – and so does the Oddfellows. Many people think we just put on social events, but the Oddfellows, like your friends, provides so much more.

“It’s not just lockdown that can cause people to lose touch. Bereavement, caring responsibilities, moving away, family leaving home, retirement and many other life changes can leave anyone, no matter their age, open to feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

If you feel that you'd benefit from additional support and friendship, you can visit our Join Us page, to discover the different benefits membership provides. You can also use our handy Branch Finder to search for your local Branch using your postcode.

With a whole host of events happening online and in person, our Events page is the quickest way to see what's going on near you, and nationwide, too.

To learn more about the Oddfellows and how to join, contact us by email, or call 0800 028 1810.

See how our network of 121 Branches marked Friendship Month 2020, helping people stay connected in the face of social restrictions and a worldwide pandemic.