IF you told Joan Anderson that she was a special person for helping others throughout her life she would just laugh.

Volunteering is as natural as breathing to her even though, at 75, she works mainly to ensure that local lonely elderly people across the borough get a special outing each month and enjoy meeting other people.

Joan went to Bolton School as a youngster but in her teens, without any special ambition “and not really wanting to go on to college or university which would have been expensive for us anyway”, she left at 16 to join the Civil Service.

She met her husband to be, Terry, at Bolton Palais in 1962 and they married in 1965.

They made their home in Ladybridge and still live in the house they moved into 45 years ago; they have two sons and two grandchildren.

When her children were young, Joan was always a busy person.

She did research for the BBC and delivered meals on wheels to the housebound.

She worked at Tommy Ball’s shoe shop in the town centre for a couple of years and then got a job in administration at the Royal Bolton Hospital where she stayed until she retired 10 years ago.

In 1974, she saw a TV programme about an organisation called Contact the Elderly which had been started to try to combat loneliness and isolation in housebound older people. “I knew straight away I wanted to be involved,” recalled Joan.

She got in touch with the charity, went to a meeting a month or so later and joined the new Bolton group.

The charity involves volunteers taking out elderly people for a pleasant car-ride which is then followed by tea at the home of that month’s hostess.

Each set of volunteers commits to taking out a group of elderly people one Sunday a month and each hostess commits to providing a meal – a hot meal or sandwiches and cake – once a year.

Joan became a volunteer and soon started enjoying taking out “her” elderly men and women each month.

“You get to know people and you quickly realise that, for many of them, this may be the only outing they have that month or the only chance to enjoy talking to other people,” stated Joan.

In 1981, Joan was asked to take over the running of the local groups. She recruited as many people as she could to help and eventually Bolton had five groups.

Over the years Contact the Elderly, under Joan’s guidance and with the active support of its dedicated volunteers, has ensured that hundreds of lonely elderly people have had that enjoyable, longed-for outing each month.

Joan has often struggled for volunteers “and Sunday itself has changed quite a bit,” added Joan.

When the charity started in Bolton, shops were still closed on Sundays and today’s style of retail and Sunday opening generally means that it’s a day people often take out their families.

Joan still runs her groups, often helped with the driving by Terry, and is still always grateful for volunteers.

“It’s a really enjoyable thing to do,” she insisted. “The elderly people enjoy it so much and it means a lot to them. And our volunteers are just brilliant.”

As well as her regular commitment to Contact the Elderly, Joan is also vice-president of Ladybridge WI and, for the past eight years, has worked at Bolton Hospice helping with administration for the chaplain there.

As for her volunteering, Joan admits that she “doesn’t really see me stopping”. She still gets pleasure from her caring career and hopes that others find her work valuable. The reality is that many people definitely do.