02:30PM, Saturday 09 January 2021
Photo by Ian Longthorne
The elderly have already faced months of challenges following the outbreak of the coronavirus, and it does not look like it will get any easier as we enter another lockdown.
Paula Prince, one of the directors of Burnham Community Association (BCA) and interim leader of the Monday Club social group for over-60s, said that she had seen a ‘massive increase in loneliness’ in their members since the start of the pandemic.
She said: “Some of the members haven’t been out of their houses since the beginning of March. Many say it’s like being a prisoner and it’s no longer living, you’re just existing.
“It breaks my heart to hear some of the stories.
“We have tried our best to keep morale up with [things such as] activity/goody bags, phone calls, [and] newsletters but it’s so difficult.”
Discussing plans to support the elderly during the current national lockdown, Paula, who is also trustee of Burnham Resilience CIO, said: “We will continue with telephone support and with shopping, prescription collections etc – none of that will stop.
“Burnham Resilience CIO will still be doing everything they did before and we will be discussing what we can implement now we are in another lockdown.
“I’m hoping to set something up through the scout group to help with the loneliness even if it’s just getting them all to draw pictures and write poems that can be sent out to help the elderly realise they haven’t been forgotten.”
Fiona Price, CEO of Age UK Berkshire said the number of calls received by the charity has ‘increased dramatically’.
“We have increased the number of people we support with our befriending service significantly, however we have had to turn to telephone befriending in most cases due to the COVID guidelines,” she said.
Offering advice on how people can help to tackle elderly loneliness, she added: “Talk to your neighbour to ensure they are ok.
“Help in your local community – many local areas have neighbourhood support networks – send cards, write letters, drop around flowers and if they need help beyond what they can do personally contact an organisation like Age UK Berkshire who can provide help or signpost as appropriate.”
One resident who has received support during the pandemic is Burnham resident Linda Taylor, who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for the last 30 years.
Reflecting on her experience of shielding during the first lockdown, the 68-year-old, said: “It’s been very difficult, I stayed in for five months and didn’t get out my garden gate.
“I could go three, four, five days a week without seeing a single soul, not even speaking to anybody and that’s the worst side of it and it’s horrible.”
She added: “It was frightening, but it was the loneliness more than anything because you start thinking what is my purpose? I’m not seeing anybody, and you get these horrible thoughts about what’s the point, what is the future for you? It’s nothing.”
Linda, who used to participate in activities with the Monday Club, added that she missed the company when the first lockdown came about.
During the first lockdown, Linda’s Chihuahua, Georgie, passed away.
She said: “Once I lost her [Georgie], the loneliness just got bigger and bigger and bigger. She was my buddy and so that’s been hard without her.”
But Linda found support in the community by forming a support bubble with a friend and with the help of Paula and a telephone buddy, all of whom Linda described as a ‘godsend’ who she would be ‘lost without’.
Burnham Resilience CIO offers a buddy-up scheme to provide telephone support and companionship, and the organisaiton also provided Linda with small parcels containing items such as puzzle books and word searches.
Linda’s neighbour also supported her in a range of ways, including with shopping.
She said: “I can’t imagine what I would be like if I hadn’t had that support. It’s just so nice to think that somebody cares enough to do it.”
Discussing how people can help combat loneliness for the elderly, Linda said: “Just to put a note through your door to say if you need anything or you need some help or you need somebody to talk to that type of thing.
“Just to know that somebody out there would be quite prepared to do something for you or just have a chat with you.”
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