How we started

Drawing of Londoners queuing for admission to a night shelter, 19th century

We have been enabling older people to flourish for more than 200 years, since a group of Christians concerned about “the aged and infirm Christian poor” established Pilgrim’s Friend Society (then known as the Aged Pilgrim’s Friend Society) in 1807.

We started off by providing pensions and support through volunteer visits; we then developed housing and care schemes for older Christians; and latterly we have started to use our experience as a springboard for inspiring and equipping churches, and other people who work in the community with older people.

Inspiring leaders

When the politician and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce was our Vice-President in those early days, there was no electricity, no mains drainage – and the welfare state was a long way off. As agriculture gave way to the industrial revolution, Wilberforce's drive to put his Christian values into practice lit a beacon that continues to guide our dedication to the care of the elderly.

Inspired, too, was the devout social reformer Lord Shaftesbury, who as a "committed friend" of the Society in its early days spread the word about our work wherever he went. We see his modern-day equivalents every day in the friends, advocates and supporters at the heart of everything we do for older people.

Guiding principles

We respect our inspiring history through our commitment to the guiding Christian principles of our predecessors. We are inspired by their examples of putting their faith into action, and we continue to build on the charitable foundations they provided.