Elderly people are helping to care for and keep other elderly people company through a new service.

On Monday Peer Support 4 Seniors was launched in Epping Forest.

Based on an idea that has proved successful in the USA, the service brings together elderly people who need or are able to provide care of some kind.

The organisation was formed by Dr Russell Razzaque, an NHS consultant psychiatrist from Chigwell who has dedicated much of his professional life to researching companionship and compassion in the care sector.

He noticed there was a gap in senior care provision for those who do not quite need fully fledged medical or nursing home care, but could still benefit from extra help and companionship.

Through Peer Support 4 Seniors people in such a position can pay £15 an hour to have someone of a similar age and world view to them come round to help out, whether that be cooking, cleaning, picking up medication or simply sitting down and chatting for a while.

Epping Forest Guardian:

"It is not a particular person that could benefit from it or become a carer, the main thing is finding the right carer for the right client," Dr Razzaque explained.

"In terms of what care is provided it is completely up to the client.

"It could be cleaning, cooking or taking them outside to the shops."

When not working for the NHS the psychiatrist speaks on topics covered in his book 'Breaking Down Is Waking Up', which focuses on the Open Dialogue technique.

Developed in Finland's Western Lapland in the 1980s, the holistic approach to mental health brings together many parts of a person's life and works through their family and friends network to help them get better.

It is widely seen as being responsible for turning the area's rates of psychosis from one of the worst in Europe to the best in the Western World.

Dr Razzaque's new service similarly aims to help people and banish their loneliness through care and companionship.

He continued: "I have done a lot of research into companionship and how it can have a big effect.

"My area of research is around therapeutic relationships and how whatever you are doing for someone, whether it be cleaning for them or acting as their doctor, the relationships is almost as important as the thing you are doing.

"We are trying to get the right people together."

To find or become a carer, go to www.peersupport4seniors.com