Beating the isolation blues
Several times a week, Debbie Watkins telephones 94-year-old Margaret White for a quick chat that inevitably turns into a lengthy chinwag.
Debbie, a 57-year-old retired sales designer, said, “Since the lockdown I’ve been calling Margaret two or three times a week just to see if she’s OK and if she needs anything. It’s just a catch up, but you’re on the phone for about an hour.
Not that Debbie minds in the least. She and Margaret have become firm friends since they were introduced earlier this year as part of Ageing Better in Birmingham, a National Lottery-funded programme set up to combat loneliness and isolation.
Debbie said, “Margaret’s amazing, she’s like a spring chicken. Since the lockdown began she’s been exercising by walking up and down her garden 10 times a day.
“She’s also a mad Aston Villa fan and she knows everything about football. We support the same team luckily.”
Ageing Better in Birmingham adapted swiftly to the demands of the coronavirus lockdown. It helps people and community groups look after their friends and neighbours by calling them regularly, collecting their shopping and delivering little ‘fun packs’ containing items such as arts and crafts, gardening packs, crosswords and puzzles to their homes.
Elina Rosen, 34, Ageing Better Coordinator, said, “Supporting isolated people is even more important at the moment, so we’re encouraging people of all ages to use phones, Skype, texting and email to reach out to people they haven’t spoken to for a while.”
Since the start of the lockdown, Debbie has also befriended Dave, a pensioner in his 70s, who was at risk of becoming isolated. Debbie said, “Dave’s all by himself because he has no family. He’s a keen birdwatcher and I’ve talked to him for ages about birds.” Debbie finds her involvement with Ageing Better extremely rewarding. She was struggling with anxiety when she spotted a leaflet in her doctor’s waiting room calling for volunteers.
She said, “The leaflet suggested volunteering might help with anxiety and as soon as I spoke to Compass Support [the organisation that coordinated the Ageing Better volunteers], I knew it was right for me. I’ve got lots of friends among the group now and we’re all really close. We talk to each other every day on WhatsApp just to see if anyone needs any support.”
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9th July 2020
Photo credit: Reach
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