MAUREEN Sharp moved to Ilkley from Doncaster to be nearer her son.

“I’d been on my own for two years since my husband died but my family wanted me to be closer to them,” she says. “There’s so much going on in Ilkley but it can be overwhelming knowing where to start and what to do, especially when you’re new to the area. It would be easy to just sit in my window and look out because there’s always so much to see.

"But what has really helped me and stopped the loneliness has been finding the Moving On group. I’ve met new people and volunteers who can help me find things of interest locally. It’s been a big part of me finding my feet and feeling welcome in a new town.”

Ilkley-based charity Moving On offers a ‘good neighbour’ service to elderly and vulnerable people. It's the latest scheme launched by Ilkley and District Good Neighbours and is aimed at helping older people tackle combat feelings of isolation resulting from significant life changes. Launched as a pilot scheme in July, Moving On has helped more than 30 people find new activities, friends and a new lease of life after the death of a partner, moving into the area or coping with reduced mobility.

Now the charity is appealing for public support to help it reach the final stage of a funding application to extend the initiative. It needs 1,000 votes to enable the anti-loneliness scheme to continue to September, 2018.

Ilkley and District Good Neighbours chairman Judy Hutton is heading the drive to apply for up to £5,000 of funding from the Aviva Community Fund, which supports community projects.

“In April we identified a real need for more of a signposting service for people whose life circumstances have changed,2 says Judy. "The loss of a spouse, coping with a newly diagnosed condition or just moving into an area can suddenly make life outside your own four walls feel overwhelming - when in fact, there’s a body of people and a host of activities to be experienced. Since July, Moving On has offered weekly meetings and is making a tangible difference to many lives. We have recently appointed a new co-ordinator, because the service takes time, resources and people to run it - which is where the outside funding comes in. We can keep Moving On operating until March 2018 but thereafter it would simply have to close.”

Adds Judy: "Securing the Aviva funding will mean Ilkley and District Good Neighbours can provide the venue, support, staff and facilities for Moving On until September 2018, giving some of Ilkley’s most vulnerable residents a further six months of making friends and connections and sharing information through skills and knowledge.”

Margaret Ford lived near York until her husband died. She moved to Ilkley last year to be near her daughter. "I had a busy life, I was always out and about and was part of the local WI. But when I had to stop driving because of illness my world shrank," she says. "Moving On has helped me regain my independence which is very important to me. I could have felt lost and alone in this new life, but now I’ve got places to go and people to go with.”

Malcolm Naylor says: "A lot of people who move here are moving closer to their families. I’m one of them but have only moved from Otley. Nevertheless, it’s been important to get to know my new surroundings, facilities and people. Moving On has been an invaluable stepping stone."

Rita Slade's husband died 18 months ago and she has since moved from Cornwall to be closer to family in Ilkley. "I heard about Moving On after moving in. I’ve now joined a Canasta group, I’ve made new friends and get myself along to regular coffee mornings," she says. "All the information is here for us to chat through and the volunteers are very good at finding just what you need. It has made such a difference to me settling into a new lifestyle. Moving On has been a huge part of helping me make the transition. Every week I know I have something I can do."

Volunteers help people find out about groups focussing on such activities as art, bridge, country dancing, badminton, scrabble and travel. Meeting on

Mondays at Ilkley Playhouse from 10am-11.30am, visitors chat, over tea, coffee and cakes, with people who have time to listen, advise and support.

Volunteer Kristiana Baird says: "Moving On is all about giving support to people whose circumstances have changed and who simply need signposting to activities, the groups and organisations that can help them find fulfilment, friendship and fun. Many people who come here don’t have the social life they would choose for themselves - they may be new to the area, recently bereaved or recuperating from illness - so with our local knowledge and 'match-making' skills, we can help them find like-minded people to share interests with and fill their time.

"It’s incredibly rewarding to be involved in something that facilitates a better quality of life and encourages independence and self-motivation for people who otherwise may feel lost, isolated and alone.

Adds Judy: “After seeing the fulfilment from Moving On in the last four months - giving people tools to regain their independence - bringing this invaluable service to an end through lack of funding would be unthinkable.

"We’d urge as many people as possible to give us their support through one simple click. An online vote for Moving On is a show of support for improving the lives of so many older people who, without this service, wouldn’t be living the life they deserve.”

Ilkley and District Good Neighbours was established in the 1970s as a team of volunteers helping older people in the community. Its schemes include help with shopping, befriending and small home maintenance jobs as well as spring and summer excursions, parties for over-90s and Christmas parcels.

* Voting line is open until November 21. Visit