OLDER people whose loved ones have died are being brought together to help them adapt to life alone.

Age UK Oxfordshire has set up 16 ‘late spring groups’ as a support network for people over the age of 60 who are dealing with grief after bereavement.

The groups, which are each attended by 12 people on average, welcome anyone whose partner, child or parents have recently died and they can attend for as long or as little time as they wish.

The late spring coordinator Many Richens said that the groups are an ‘invaluable’ service for people, many of whom have lost partners of 50 to 60 years.

She added: “We talk about all sorts of things, not just the emotional side but the practical as well for instance how to fix things around the house or cook for yourself - the things a lot of people don’t know how to do after being married for so long.

“You can see a real difference from when they start with us to when they leave. They create friendships which opens up doors to other opportunities.

“Losing a partner is a huge adjustment, you lose the person you share experiences with and miss just having someone to discuss the latest TV.

“At first you get a lot of support from friends and family but over time people get on with their lives, it is fairly short term support.

“We don’t have an end date, we’re a place where people can come and admit you are still struggling and people will understand.”

Denis Kinchin, 81, from Witney has been going to his local late spring group for the last three years.

The retired fork lift truck driver’s wife of 54 years Val died in February 2013 when she was 74 after a five year battle with ovarian cancer.

Mr Kinchin likened the group to a ‘stepping stone’ which has helped him to adapt to a different way of life without his wife.

He said: “You meet people there that are in the same situation as you.

“It’s still very difficult for me. When you are married it is a partnership and suddenly that person is gone and you have to look after yourself.

“You have regrets about not making the most of your time together and I worry a lot more. You can never prepare for it, we’re not made to be on our own.

“They are there to help you make decisions about life. Now I have to make them all myself and you question whether you are making the right one.

“There are highs and lows. I have a nice time and go out but ultimately you come back to an empty house and think you are back to square one.

“I still feel it every day, especially at Christmas. It does not end, you just learn to adapt to a different way of life without her.”

To donate £5 to Age UK Oxfordshire, text OXMA99 £5 to 70071.

Age UK Oxfordshire is also looking for volunteers for its 'phone friends' initiative.

The service offers a friendly chat for 280 of the county’s most lonely and isolated people.

Some 45 volunteers from across Oxfordshire make regular calls which help combat the ‘debilitating’ effects of chronic loneliness.

To help or to find out more go to www.ageuk.org.uk/oxfordshire/how-you-can-help