Ever since his wife, Cassandra, passed away two years ago, Joe Bartley has been living on his own in Devon.
The 89-year-old war veteran has no children, has lost contact with his friends, and has little remaining family – so it’s unsurprising that Bartley soon began to feel as if he was living in “solitary confinement”. But now, after taking it upon himself to find a job, that’s all about to change.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “I miss my wife dreadfully, and when you live on your own there is no one to speak to. Since she died I’ve moved into a flat and it’s a big block.
“Once you walk into that flat it’s like solitary confinement.”
Desperate to find some companionship and stimulus, the ex-serviceman decided that the only answer was to seek out employment for himself.
“When you’re working for yourself… you feel more individual, and you’re meeting people, making friends,” he said.
He placed an ad in the Herald Express, his local newspaper, pleading for someone to give him a job – and, when nobody responded the first time, he didn’t give up; he simply asked the paper to run the ad again.
It read: “Senior citizen 89 seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything.
“I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces.
”Save me from dying of boredom!”
The advert had an enormous reaction on social media, with hundreds of people praising Bartley for his attitude. He has also been contacted by an old friend in North Devon, whom he previously had lost touch with, and, overall, Bartley has been “rather chuffed” with the response.
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Better still, he has now secured a job at the Cantina Bar and Kitchen in his local town of Paignton.
Speaking to the BBC, Kate Allen, who owns the business, said: “Not many people are that pro-active, let alone an 89-year-old, so I could not let him go.
“I liked him straight away when I spoke to him on the phone.”
She added that Bartley, who is due to start work on Sunday, will be clearing tables and helping with other tasks.
“We're really happy to have him,” she said.
Bartley was, naturally, over the moon to have found his very own “happy ending”, saying: “The first thing I did when I heard about the job was pour myself a stiff drink.
“It’s been a whirlwind in the past couple of days.”
We love this pensioner’s incredible attitude to life – and we hope that he makes plenty of friends in his new role. And fingers crossed that his newfound “celebrity status” will encourage more of us to reach out and speak to an elderly person when we sit next to them on the bus, walk past them at the supermarket, or try to brighten up their day in some small way.
You can find out about Age UK’s befriending services (both telephone and face-to-face) on their website. Or, if you are worried about an elderly relative or neighbour, they also have advice on how best to overcome loneliness , too.