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Charities back call to check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours who live alone

PUBLISHED: 06:54 02 June 2020 | UPDATED: 06:54 02 June 2020

Residents have been urged to look out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Residents have been urged to look out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

warrengoldswain

Fears have been raised for the wellbeing of elderly and vulnerable people living alone after a 75-year-old man was found at his home with no food and a broken freezer.

Many local volunteer groups have been shopping for elderly people in the community who have been shielding. Photo: Highwaystarz-Photography/Getty Images/iStockphotoMany local volunteer groups have been shopping for elderly people in the community who have been shielding. Photo: Highwaystarz-Photography/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Volunteers rallied to help the man, cleaning his freezer, removing ruined food – and returning several times to his Lowestoft home to cook him meals.

And the man’s plight has led to a warning from charities that his is not an isolated case – and an urgent plea to not forget our vulnerable neighbours.

Jo Reeder, from Age UK Suffolk, said: “Sadly, the man in Lowestoft won’t be the only one who has become isolated.

“Right from the start of this we have been providing an emergency shopping service for vulnerable people and connecting people to support groups in difficult to reach areas.

Jo Reeder from Age UK Suffolk Picture: AGE UK SUFFOLKJo Reeder from Age UK Suffolk Picture: AGE UK SUFFOLK

“The difficulty, of course, is if you are vulnerable and completely isolating with no contact or access to the internet, how are you going to know about the support available?”

She added: “There are people who don’t have family or neighbours they can rely on. It is about making sure people can find out what support is available, and the message to check on your neighbours is so important.”

Among the latest easing of the lockdown guidelines, the 2m people across England who have been shielding can now leave the house to spend time with people outdoors, while following social distancing.

Yet Ms Reeder said it was too early to know if easing the restrictions around shielding was the right decision, and whether it would ease the burden of loneliness.

Jen Jones, a volunteer with Lowestoft Helping Hands. PHOTO: Jen JonesJen Jones, a volunteer with Lowestoft Helping Hands. PHOTO: Jen Jones

“We are supporting a lot of people, including many who are clinically vulnerable, over 70 and have chosen to self-isolate.

“There is a general feeling of anxiety which has been building, but others are desperate to get outside, so it isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.

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“Everyone is facing their own challenges but people are still concerned and rightly so.”

Anne-Marie Elliott, of Lowestoft Helping Hands. PHOTO: Anne-Marie ElliottAnne-Marie Elliott, of Lowestoft Helping Hands. PHOTO: Anne-Marie Elliott

Lowestoft Helping Hands also issued a plea to look out for neighbours after volunteers rallied together to help the man.

He was assessed by paramedics, while Suffolk County Council’s social services team has also been contacted by the group.

Jen Jones, from the volunteer group, said: “I think a lot of the elderly and vulnerable people will still be worried about leaving their homes and we will still be here if they need us.”

Her words were echoed by fellow volunteer Anne-Marie Elliott, who said: “It’s important people know if they don’t want to go out, or if they just need a chat, we will always be here and to remember they are not alone.”

Jenny Bevan of Norfolk Community Foundation .Photo: Steve AdamsJenny Bevan of Norfolk Community Foundation .Photo: Steve Adams

Across the county border, £1m has now been raised to help charities support vulnerable people from going hungry or being lonely during the coronavirus crisis – with Norfolk Community Foundation distributing the Covid-19 Community Response Fund to local charities and volunteers.

Working in partnership with the Norfolk Resilience Forum, it has meant charities and volunteers have helped get food to vulnerable people, including those who are still having to shield despite the easing of restrictions.

And older people cut off from friends and family have been helped through befriending services calling them up to ease the loneliness.

Jenny Bevan, head of programmes with the Norfolk Community Foundation, said: “Inevitably when there is a medical emergency, especially one like this, the elderly and vulnerable are the people most recommended to shield and that is very isolating.

“The digital technology to tackle that is not for everyone and the emphasis is on them to make contact.

“It is inevitable, even with the best of intentions, that some people will not be reached, but we have seen loads of volunteers stepping up to groups and networks across the county and a lot of the local charities have been innovative in how they reach out and make sure they help as many people as possible keep in touch.

“There are a lot of organisations and groups helping people in small communities where they know the people they are supporting and they are a key part of the network.

“They are trusted and it 
can be easier for them to 
reach out and help.”


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