Age UK Enfield’s chief executive Ben Ingber on how the charity has responded to the coronavirus
As the largest organisation supporting older people in the borough, we were the first port of call for many older people when the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK.
We knew that many older people would feel extremely worried and anxious, and that many more people would require our help and support. As lockdown was introduced and older people were advised to stay at home, we started getting calls from people we knew, as well as those previously managing well who suddenly found they needed much more help and support.
As people’s existing support networks were stripped away, we were taking calls from relatives and friends, concerned about how their loved ones were managing. During March we took nearly 3,000 calls – up from just under 400 the same month last year. With both our office and The Parker Day Centre in Edmonton forced to close, and with staff working from home, we remodelled and reorganised our services – and created new ones – to ensure we could continue to respond to this crisis.
All of our information and advice services have moved to telephone only, while our independent living service, iCan, continues to operate via phone and online and has distributed more than 100 activity packs. Our specialist dementia hub, The Parker Day Centre in Houndsfield Road, normally sees around 80 people per week; we have now reorganised this service so the staff are visiting clients at home. It remains an essential source of continuity, stimulation, companionship and fun, as well as providing some much-needed respite for carers.
Our home care continues, offering personal and practical care around the home, while both our memory care project and health and wellbeing project continue to do their essential work supporting and enabling vulnerable older people. We created emergency food parcels for those who needed them, and have developed a hot food delivery service alongside Enfield Council’s catering service, meaning that people are getting a nutritious meal delivered every day, as well as being checked on to see that they are okay.
We have been collecting people’s prescriptions, doing shopping trips, and our popular dementia choir is running weekly online sessions. We have delivered home exercise packs for people to keep fit at home, as well as put exercise classes online for those with internet access.
It has been a challenging time for everyone, but I for one have been proud of how the team at Age UK Enfield have pulled together and continue to help older people during this time. If you are able to help us by volunteering, donating, or helping to spread the word about what we do, it would be most appreciated.