What you can do for vulnerable older people in your community

There’s a lot of talk right now about staying sane in 'These Challenging Times.' How to look after your mentaland physical wellbeing, make the best use of store cupboard ingredients, buy food locally to avoid the rush of the supermarkets and support your independents. Resources for frazzled parents are everywhere but there’s surprisingly little being shared on social media about ways to support the older and more vulnerable members of our communities. 

Ask how you can help rather than saying: 'I want to do X, Y or Z'

While it’s important to look after your health and that of your family - you are no use to anyone if you’re not in a good shape yourself - there are isolated older people in dire need not only of those loo rolls and tins of soup being stockpiled but also more structured community support or just a friendly voice. If you’re in a position to offer time or money read on for some ideas.

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Important to note is that you shouldn’t go knocking on doors willy nilly. Either physically - Phyllis does not want your germs, or metaphorically - reaching out to strangers can put them at danger. There are, dishearteningly, lots of scammers who target older people, so unsolicited phone calls or care parcels, while well-intentioned, are not the way to do it. Of course, if you actually know your older neighbours, even just to say hi, go ahead. Reach out and ask how they’re getting on - as long as you still stay at least two metres away. 

As with many charitable endeavours, donations of time and money are proportionately more useful when put into local organisations for whom that money really is a lifeline and local knowledge is expert. While there are national organisations doing great work, your local branch or another smaller local charity will be super grateful for your help right now. So where possible, give local. Do bear in mind though that these organisations are small and do not have the capacity of national ones, so they may not get back to you right away as they might be busy dealing with the matter in hand. If you get no answer on the phone, send an email. Ask how you can help rather than saying ‘ I want to do X, Y or Z.’ Be patient, times are busy.

There is a helpful list of Manchester’s age-friendly networks here but here are four more key ways to help:

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Get on the blower

The Silverline may be a national organisation but it the most impactful reaching large numbers of people at home and it is run really well by local teams. In essence, it is a free 24/7 helpline for older people across the UK. But it also sets up telephone friendships where volunteers are connected with older people based on mutual topics of interest. The Silverline offers advice on everything from housing to financial worries and organises small topic-based groups and clubs. The organisation is currently running an emergency coronavirus appeal with Age UK, which is also a national but with local branches, for example Manchester and Trafford.

Be a Good Neighbour

There are local Good Neighbours organisations all over Greater Manchester. They help older people in communities all year round and have great local networks. What they need is money and time. In normal circumstances you might be paired up with an older person in your area to offer friendship and help with things like shopping or practical stuff. Now it’s more likely to be a phone call or donation towards meals on wheels services that you can help with. The best thing to do is contact the closest one to you and ask what you can do to support them. Nephra Good Neighbours (New Moston) are particularly looking for support from local businesses who would want to fund/support the scheme. There are also Levenshulme Good NeighboursWythenshawe Good Neighbours, Didsbury good neighbours, LINK Good Neighbours (Rusholme and Fallowfield) and Manchester Cares does a similar thing.

Burnage Good Neighbours say they already have plenty of volunteers but are open to people emailing. Chorlton Good Neighbours do not need volunteers at the moment, so please don't get in touch as they are overwhelmed, but Helen at CGN had this suggestion:

"Consider who else might be needing some support - it's easy to think of the frailer older person, but we are supporting some younger disabled people who might look ok on the outside but still have to isolate themselves or are shielding. They often have fewer connections than older residents."

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Put your faith in a place of worship

Another way you can help locally is to donate to your local church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship or contact them to ask how you can help. You don’t have to be religious (or follow that specific religion) to receive support from these organisations or to get involved as a volunteer. Of course, religion is the backbone of these types of places but ultimately these places offer localised, trusted, structured support to their local communities and are often a first port of call for the older generation.

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Support people with dementia and their carers

It’s really challenging to isolate if you live with someone with dementia. Together Dementia Support is a registered charity offering support and therapeutic activities for people living with dementia, their carers and supporters in Manchester. They’re a tiny charity and would really benefit from donations of time or money, particularly to their crisis fundraiser which has just launched. Dementia Support is also provided by Age UK Salford, Age UK Stockport and Age UK Oldham. In Bolton there’s also a new, small organisation called Bolton Dementia Support who would be very grateful for local support. In some areas the support for people living with dementia and their carers is provided by The Alzheimer’s Society, who recently launched a large campaign to draw in funds for their telephone support.

Online activities, events and groups for older people

Vegetarian For Life - A Manchester based organisation which offers advice, support and community for vegetarians and vegans over 50. You can also call them on 0161 257 0887

The Royal Exchange Theatre’s Elders Company - A theatre group offering workshops, writing groups and drama games. It has been running for six years and has members aged between 62 and 81. They are now running Zoom meetings to help people to stay creative and positive

Ancoats Community Choir - This is a choral group open to all ages that is currently running 'live' singalong sessions online. Join the Facebook group for updates on dates and times of upcoming sessions

Manchester Cares are running quizzes and group chats for older people on Zoom. See their social channels for information on how to join

Read: Man United highlight loneliness epidemic in touching pre-match gesture

Read more: Chippy teas and sassy septuagenarians - Is Manchester really an age friendly city?