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Age Cymru: Working to keep older people safe and connected during the Coronavirus crisis

March 23rd 2020

In the second of our series of articles looking at the impact of Covid-19 on different aspects of  our life in Wales,Victoria Lloyd, Chief Executive of Age Cymru looks at the implications for older people and outlines what steps they are taking to support people during the crisis.

 

2B5J48F A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2 virus on black background (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) – COVID 19 virion particle.

The onset of the Coronavirus has been swift and severe, affecting many groups across Wales but with specific implications for older people. Following the government’s recent announcement advising people over the age of 70 to limit social contact, many older people and their families have become anxious and fearful of what lies ahead.

Will I be able to go out and buy food?  Can I take my dog for a walk?  Should I let the engineer in to repair my boiler?  What can I do if my prescriptions don’t arrive on time? Is my carer still visiting? These are just some of the many questions that have been flooding into us. Others have been confused by the interchangeable use of the phrases ‘self-distancing’ and ‘self-isolating’.

Older people, particularly those who are isolated and lonely, are understandably worried about obtaining the essentials that they need to maintain their well-being.

We have liaised with our colleagues in Welsh government, with the Older People’s Commissioner, social services, older people’s groups and other charities to make sure we have a firm understanding of the situation across Wales and that we can all deliver a common message.

We are advising the many volunteers that have come forward to work with existing charities and organisations so that we can continue to maintain safeguarding standards. Outside of formal volunteering, we are advising people to offer to help people that they already know.

Communication is a major issue for many older people, especially with the use of online communications as more than half of the over 75s in Wales do not have access to the internet. So we have worked closely the media to get the right messaging out there.

The BBC’s free to use Red Button service is a vital source of information for many people self-isolating.  Understandably we were delighted when we heard that the BBC intends extending its free TV licences for the over 75s for another two months.   These information channels are vital to enable people of all ages to follow the latest government advice, as we all have a role to play in helping to delay the spread of the virus and in minimising the risk to ourselves and others.

Of course we’re also using online channels to communicate to older people as we are constantly sharing the latest information from the government and Public Health Wales via our websites and social media channels as quickly as possible.

We are also continuing to monitor the Welsh government’s response and action being taken, and will raise concerns and call for further action should we feel that this is not sufficient to protect older people.

The Check in and Chat Service

On 23 March 2020 we will be launching our Check in and Chat service for the over 70s who live alone. We hope this will help provide some reassurances to older people, answer basic queries and link people to local services and support during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Anyone over 70 in Wales can register with us, free of charge, to receive a regular call from the charity in English or Welsh.  We know these are difficult times for many older people, especially those living alone who may not have anyone else to share their concerns. Others may just want to have a chat about what they saw on television last night. Hopefully, this initiative will help older people cope with some of the challenges arising from the Coronavirus.

We are anticipating significant demand for the service and we are grateful to the Older People’s Commissioner and other colleagues who have offered to support us in reaching the people that need our help. In fact the response by communities so far has been outstanding and the support being provided is already making a positive difference.

There is no getting away from the fact we are living through a period in which we will see unprecedented change and disruption, potentially for a prolonged period. But alongside this, we are confident that we will also see the very best of people and our communities as we all try to navigate the difficult path ahead and ensure that older people are kept as safe as possible and can get the support they need.

Victoria Lloyd is CEO of Age Cymru

One Response to “Age Cymru: Working to keep older people safe and connected during the Coronavirus crisis”

  1. Sensible advice and an excellent scheme. The Church in Wales at local level is working hard to stay connected to our folk too!

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