BLOG SERIES: Perspectives on the pandemic

More than a year on from the launch of the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal on 18 March 2020, we have asked our incredible funding partners to share their unique perspectives on the pandemic. Age UK has been dedicating Coronavirus Appeal funds to help support its national Advice Line and Telephone Friendship Services, as well as the services provided by Age Scotland, Age NI, Age Cymru and Age UK’s subsidiary charity The Silver Line Helpline.

Older People

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Service Development Manager at Age UK, Lesley Carberry gives us an insight into how the pandemic has affected older people’s lives and Age UK’s capacity to overcome the challenges it has faced.

 

What difference has the pandemic made to the communities you serve?

 

Overwhelming global evidence shows that older people are more likely to become seriously ill and die from the virus. Many older people are deeply afraid of Covid-19 and of leaving their homes. Through our own research, older people have consistently told us they are feeling lonely, with 1 in 3 older people feeling more anxious since the start of the pandemic, particularly those with long-term health conditions. Large numbers of older people have also seen their health decline, with 1 in 3 agreeing they now have less energy, and 1 in 5 finding it harder to remember things.

 

What impact did you see on your services as a result?

 

Demand for support from Age UK has never been higher. Our Telephone Friendship Service experienced a 300% increase in demand at the beginning of the pandemic. Demand for our national Advice Line peaked at 88% above normal levels, with calls now more urgent and complex than ever before. Similarly, demand for The Silver Line Helpline peaked at 31% above normal levels. We have also seen record views on our website and record numbers of emails asking for help. The story is the same for equivalent services delivered by our charity partners in the nations, Age Scotland, Age NI and Age Cymru.

 

What has the funding from the Coronavirus Appeal enabled you to do for those people you help?

 

Primarily we have been able to develop and deliver our information and advice services for older people most in need across the UK including:

 

      • Responding to additional demand on our Advice Line (helping towards staff and running costs).
      • Expanding our Telephone Friendship Service, supporting 1,000 more older people since August 2020, with more waiting to be matched with a befriender.
      • Answering calls to The Silver Line Helpline – since August 2020 the National Emergencies Trust funding helped us to answer 146,000 calls to this 24/7 service.
      • Providing additional advice and frontline services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What challenges and/or opportunities do you foresee ahead?

 

The main challenge is the disproportionate long-term impact of Covid-19 on older people’s physical, cognitive and emotional health. Older people will find it significantly harder than other age groups to rebuild fitness and thinking skills. Many will never recover.
Age UK has an opportunity to provide those most in need with advice and support to rebuild confidence, social networks and fitness. Additionally, many older people reaching out to us are now bereaved. We see an opportunity to train frontline staff with bereavement support skills to better equip them to help – we just need to find funding to do this.