The Coronavirus lockdown has been such a worrying time for our older population. With people over the age of 70 being asked to shield, many have been suddenly cut from their loved ones and their independence taken from them.
This is where Age Cymru has come to the rescue and launched a much-needed lifeline to hundreds of people over the age of 70 across Wales. It’s called ‘Check in and Chat’ and it does what it says on the tin. Since the project began, the service has made over 14,000 calls to people and provided a huge web of support.
At Hugh James, we wanted to help and have supported Age Cymru for more than 10 years. So, we called on colleagues to volunteer to a friendly voice behind the phone – and this week we reached over 500 calls.
It’s been such a worthwhile and rewarding experience. We’ve benefited so much from the conversations we’ve had – as well as knowing that our calls have made a difference to others.
Here are just a few experiences from some of our Hugh James volunteers:
“Calls have been heart-warming and some heartbreaking. I’ve talked to people who are worried about their loved one in hospital, who they’ve not seen for months – or a recently widowed man who was missing his wife. We’ve shared experiences of missing family, travelling tips, what to watch on TV and what we will do when lockdown is over. It has been a huge benefit to me too, with many giggles to brighten up a day.”
“Everyone I have spoken to has been so grateful for the calls and in many instances, the call will be the only person they speak to that day, which shows just how important the service and the work Age Cymru does.”
“The conversations I’ve had with the elderly people were often heart-warming, as they spoke about the loved ones they are missing during lockdown. They were all appreciative of the time taken to speak to them about their interests – which were sometimes eye-opening – I had never before had chance to speak to a 79-year-old former pantomime dame!”
“It has been an absolutedelight andprivilege to speak to everyone concerned via thevolunteering service. I’ve chuckledwith people I’ve chatted to, been moved to tears and felt incredible admiration for so many on their handling of the current situation and their positive and stoic attitude to life.I have absolutely loved volunteering.”
“It isn’t just a ten-minute telephone call; it’s a human connection and can mean the world to someone who has not spoken to anyone all day. The friendships you can make in just ten minutes may be surprising but that’s what can happen when you give someone who is self-isolating your undivided attention and care.”
“Everyone I had the pleasure of speaking with expressed their appreciation and gratitude for the service provided; I often come away feeling like I had made their day just by taking the time to call. I spoke to a variety ofpeople who often hadlots to say; from a lovely gentleman who at 83 was an avid collector of rare Japanese vinyl and all things Queen related (not the Monarch!), through to a lady who having recently celebrated her 84th birthday, recalled in great detail many fond memories from her time in the Youth Army.”
We’re continuing to support this important initiative. Isolation and loneliness are already at epidemic levels, with Age UK estimating that around two million people in England over the age of 75 live alone and – shockingly – more than a million people go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
Hopefully, this initiative will help older people cope with some of the challenges arising from the Coronavirus outbreak. To be involved in the project is an honour. This generation are the backbone of our society.