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Dublin: 21°C Sunday 13 June 2021

Govt launches 'befriending' phone-call initiative for older people in response to Covid-19 crisis

In the UK, a care home is inviting people to “adopt a grandparent” by holding video calls with its residents.

Image: Shutterstock/Kaspars Grinvalds

OLDER PEOPLE INVOLVED in the Seniors Alert Scheme will now be able to receive a regular call to check on their wellbeing and needs during the current Covid-19 crisis under a new initiative announced by Minister Michael Ring today. 

The befriending scheme will be operated in conjunction with Pobal and Alone, the charity that supports older people to age at home. 

Minister Ring is using the Department of Community Development’s Seniors Alert Scheme, which provides monitored alarms for older people in their homes, to run the initiative. 

The initiative aims to provide peace of mind and local assistance to older people. More than 80,000 older people are currently registered on the scheme. 

The befriending initiative requires users to test their alarms to ensure that they are still active. 

Monitoring providers or local community groups operating the scheme will contact the user. 

Once the users test their alarm, they will be called back and asked if they would like to avail of the befriending call service through Alone.

Minister Ring is now urging older people who have the personalised alarms to ensure they are activated. 

“Now is the time to make sure your alarm is working and contact your local community organisation if you have any concerns,” Ring said. 

“This initiative is an example of how we are adapting the way we work and using all tools at our disposal to ensure that everyone feels supported and connected at the same time,” he said. 

“I would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that volunteering should be done in a safe way so that neither the volunteers nor those in need are put at risk, and to always follow the latest HSE guidelines,” Ring added. 

The Senior Alerts Scheme is operated locally by some 670 community groups throughout the State, and administered by Pobal on behalf of the Minister. 

The Department has said the involvement of Alone in this befriending call initiative is critial. 

“It has the nationwide capacity to provide this service, and it is part of their significant and vital contribution to the measures taken to respond to the Covid-19 emergency,” the Department said in its statement today. 

The Alone helpline can also be contacted on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing or the wellbeing of an older person you know. 

UK initiative

In the UK, care home CHD Living, which has 16 facilities in Surrey, is inviting people to “adopt a grandparent” by holding video calls with its residents during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The care home has run a similar scheme since last year, encouraging local people to spend time with their residents in person. 

However, now that face-t0-face visits are no longer possible, the company has decided to take it online. 

“The idea behind it was to promote intergenerational communication and the relationship between children and older people, which is very valuable,” said Shaleeza Hasham, head of hospitality, communications and commissioning for CHD Living.

“By taking it digital, we felt it was so valuable to relieve potential feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

The scheme has already been a huge success, with 28,000 people around the world signing up to volunteer from the ages of one to 76.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Hasham said. “There aren’t enough words to express.”

Volunteers are asked to complete a short questionnaire about their likes and dislikes, allowing residents to choose who they feel they might get on with.

Then, there are introductory sessions to ensure the volunteers and their adopted grandparents get on, and each call is overseen by a supervisor.

Staff hope that once the pandemic has passed and it is safe to do so, as many of the volunteers as possible will visit their adopted grandparent in person.

Includes reporting by Press Association 

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