‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ - Helen Keller, U.S. author, educator, and disability rights advocate.
Numerous studies show that elderly who are visited by family members or friends almost daily are 12 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who only see friends every few months.
Not that long ago whilst one of our New Business team members was walking her dog she met an elderly lady. The dogs stopped to play, so they decided to have a chat.
Her name was Margaret and she will be 73 this year. She suffers from a number of medical conditions including – arthritis, chronic muscle pain, and short-term memory loss. Margaret organised a group in the neighbourhood for people of a similar age. The group doesn’t have a name, but operates on a WhatsApp group. Currently there are about 18 people in the group. Most of them have limited mobility and come with their Live-in Carers. As Margaret explained these people lost their partners, recently or some time ago, and have been feeling lonely until they discovered Margaret and her group through neighbours or family members. Anyone can become a member of this group, there is no actual 'membership' as it's very informal - the more the merrier!
During the lockdown Margaret and her friends organised video calls so everyone could get together. They had their cup of tea and a biscuit “together”, knitted or just chatted. In this most difficult (especially for the elderly) time they created an atmosphere of unity and gave people a purpose!
Creating a WhatsApp contact and organising video calls was not easy as it required some technical knowledge. We know that some elderly struggle with modern technologies as they get more and more complex to set up and use. But not Margaret and her friends! They involved Live-in Carers of the existing members as they are clued up on various electronic gadgets – and succeeded!
The group is active and growing strong. They do not just meet up to chat - they volunteer for various local charities, bake for them, make paper flowers for local displays, organise walks and travel. Live-in Carers play an important role in these activities supporting their Clients. Their recent trip was to Salisbury, Wiltshire, to attend a pantomime in a local theatre. Everybody had a lot of fun!
Such activities as hobbies, travel and volunteering are all ways people stay socially active and connected throughout their lives.
For some of the group members, their Live-in Carers and this social group are the only family they now have. They teach their Clients and friends new skills, such as cooking new meals, and share new hobbies to enjoy together.
They also help their elderly Clients understand internet and modern technology. The internet expands the world of every person, it replaced traditional encyclopaedias, one can find anything – from what weather is like in Spain, to new species of butterfly in the Bahamas. Margaret's group is an excellent example of how technology can help keep us connected.
Margaret said that not everybody was eager to get involved in social activities and it took a while for them to get out of their shells. These were those people who lost their loved ones long ago and spent years on their own. Carers visited these people a couple of times a week or, in better cases, one every day for a couple of hours. Having a Live-in Carer changed their lives – they went out more often and got encouraged and supported during the group’s activities.
What an amazing women Margaret turned out to be. She forgets about her own health issues to provide her neighbours, and others, with so much needed community spirit!