‘It is ok to ask for help’ - Age UK urges people to reach out this winter as they reveal lockdown toll on elderly in Cambridgeshire

Age UK is concerned for elderly people who have felt isolated druing the lockdown.

Age UK is concerned for elderly people who have felt isolated druing the lockdown. - Credit: Archant

Elderly people across Cambridgeshire are being encouraged to reach out and ask for help this winter – after lockdown left many feeling isolated.

Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough spoke with The Hunts Post to highlight challenges and concerns from recent months.

The charity is independently run in the county and heavily relies on donations from the public to keep up their work.

They currently have around 500 volunteers who have given their time, support and compassion to help the elderly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Melanie Wicklen said: “We are working with those that are most susceptible to the virus so we knew from day one that we had to be extremely reactive, and I think we have achieved that.

“When we first went into lockdown, the main priority was access to essential groceries and prescriptions - but as we have settled into a ‘new normal’ it was about making sure that those isolating still had some form of human contact.

“Just taking away that one visit a week from someone for an elderly person was so debilitating.”

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Research showed that nearly three-quarters of people aged 70 and over in Great Britain were worried about the effect that the virus was having on their life, with more than two-fifths saying their mental health was also affected.

“We set up a friendship service for Covid related calls during lockdown too,” Melanie said.

“The sheer isolation has impacted people both physically and mentally, especially those living on their own.”

Groups, activity classes or a simple catch up with a friend were taken away during lockdown, so the confidence of older people has taken a hit.

Age UK stepped in to help with patients being discharged from hospital and handed out 1,500 handmade masks.

Melanie continued: “It’s about feeling ok to actually go out again.

“Now we are trying to get their confidence back again as once they can socialise mental wellbeing will improve too.

“It may be the fact that someone wants to just go out to the shop to buy a birthday card for a friend – that alone can be a big thing.”

Volunteers have also written letters to those that have sensory impairment and drawn awareness to cyber-crime and doorstep scammers.

“Scammers target those that are vulnerable and may be happy to sit and talk at times like this,” Melanie said.

“Whether that being getting scam calls from the bank or even a Track and Trace system asking people for card details.”

The charity is encouraging people to reach out and speak to family members by working alongside local charities that offer tablets and phones to the elderly to stay connected.

Melanie continued: “We’ve contacted more than 1,000 service users during lockdown to ask them how they are doing and offer reassurance that we are here if they need us.

“Being able to meet up in a garden and see family members has been really important.

“The community effort has just been amazing.”

The upcoming winter season - with fears of a second wave of the virus - has also led Age UK to urge the elderly to not be afraid to ask for help.

“Staying connected is key, if we have regular conversations with others then we feel better in ourselves and are then more inclined to ask for help if it is needed.

“Do not be afraid to reach out, it could be that you’re worried about the cost of heating bills, which in that case we could run an energy check or advise of any fuel allowance you could get.

“We are here to help; we don’t want to change the way people live at home but just make sure they can continue to live sensibility and confidently.

“I am very proud of staff and volunteers and how they have worked during these last few months.”

It is hoped that the Age UK day services will reopen again in mid-October.

For help, advice or further information contact the helpline on 0300 666 9860, or email infoandadvice@ageukcap.org.uk