Lorraine (75), resident at St Mary’s House in Hemel Hempstead is a multi award-winning thrill-seeking volunteer with an extensive and wonderful history of caring for and volunteering with both the elderly and adults who have disabilities.


Life growing up

“I was born and raised in Sheffield on the 3rd February 1945, before moving to Wales, followed by Middlesex – we were very busy! One thing I can always remember is when it was bluebell season. We used to go bluebell picking and I’d come home with heaps of bluebells, they’d be all around the living room!”



“My chosen career was a tailor and dressmaker but I had to give it up when I had my son, Andrew, as he had Spina Bifida. Sadly, he passed away when he was 13 and shortly after my husband and I divorced.

“When it was time for me to go back to work, I decided I would like to continue caring for others so decided to go into the care field. I started working with adults who had physical disabilities in a residential care home, before moving on to care for adults with learning disabilities.

“I absolutely loved working in care and I think that’s why I still volunteer today.”



“I was 55 when I retired and thought to myself; ‘well I’m not ready for the scrapheap yet!’. So I became a volunteer driver for community cars in Hemel Hempstead, which involved taking people to and from their appointments who need a little extra help to get there and back home.

“Now, I’m a volunteer with Age UK in Hemel Hempstead and Age Concern in St Albans. Every week I take three or four people for a cup of tea, a chat or lunch, Tuesdays and Thursdays we play cards, dominos, and sometimes rummikub – which is one I love to get involved in! We also have bingo and entertainment sometimes too.


Socialising with older people is so important as it’s easy to become isolated and feel lonely in your retirement years. Causes like Abbeyfield, Age UK and Age Concern that help alleviate that loneliness are so worthwhile, I think everyone should volunteer for them. 

Volunteering keeps me very busy! Everyone says; ‘don’t you think you ought to slow down a bit?’ But, I enjoy it! While I can do it and while I enjoy it, I’m going to do it.

Two generations living with Abbeyfield

“I came to Abbeyfield after my mum lived here. My mum and dad originally lived in Worthing – where they moved after retirement. Shortly after, we sadly lost dad, and mum became ill after having a fall, meaning she could no longer live alone. I said to mum; ‘if you’ve got to move, why don’t you come up and live near me? That’s how I found this apartment – mum came to live here and was here for around 3 years before she unfortunately became too unwell and needed residential care.

“I was delighted to then be asked by St Marys to join the committee, and of course I said yes! I was on the committee for around 5 years until I decided that I would also like to live in sheltered housing. I became a resident nearly 20 years ago and have loved every minute. I’m so happy to be living somewhere I feel safe and supported.

“The best part is I can remain independent whilst having that support there when I need it. I cook all my own meals and pop in and out as I please. It’s great because I still feel part of the house, but I’m completely self-sufficient.

“Jackie Dyer, our House Manager is an absolute diamond! She goes above and beyond for all of us! We often have a good chat and a cuppa together!”


The birth of Kamikaze Gran

“For my 70th birthday I decided to be daring and take on a skydive. During the preparation someone gave me the nickname ‘Kamikaze Gran’ and it stuck.

“I did the skydive to raise money for Shine – a charity that provide specialist advice and support for those living with Spina Bifida (the same condition my son suffered with) and Hydrocephalus. I raised almost £1,500, which I was thrilled with. I still volunteer with Shine sometimes and the team there still call me Kamikaze Gran!”


When I’m not skydiving you can find me…

“When I’m not volunteering or fundraising, I enjoy reading, doing jigsaws, surfing the web and spending time with my family. I have a surviving son and three grandchildren.

I also offer ‘shared care’ which is where children with special needs come to see me and spend time with me. I have one young man at the moment who I take to athletics on a Monday, McDonalds on a Friday and swimming on a Saturday.”

“In case you couldn’t tell – I like to keep busy!!”

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