Good neighbour Ken, ready to help
Image Source: Housing Plus Group

Member Article

“Social distancing has brought us closer together”

At a time when we have all been careful to stay apart, social distancing has brought some people closer together. In a survey carried out by Channel Mum, a quarter of adults said that they had spoken to neighbours for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic. In neighbourhoods everywhere, people have been supporting the vulnerable and keeping in touch with those in self-isolation.

Ken Smith moved to a retirement living community near Wolverhampton around two years ago. Ken says he tends to keep himself to himself and until recently, he was on polite nodding terms with his neighbours. That changed in March, when the country went into lockdown.

“I’m younger than most of those living here and although I have several medical conditions, I’m mobile and not in a group advised to shield. I quickly realised that I was in a position to help people who were finding it difficult to get essential supplies,” he explains.

Ken offered to shop for his neighbours and received guidance and support from Care Plus, which manages the development on behalf of not-for-profit provider Housing Plus Group. Since then, he has been providing a daily delivery service that outshines some of the big supermarkets.

“People let me have their orders today, for delivery tomorrow. I’m shopping for up to twelve people each day, so it is all about having a system. When all this started, I got hold of some re-sealable plastic bags. Everyone puts their shopping list into their bag, and I go off to the local Co-op. I bring everything back in a trolley and then do my delivery round.”

As Ken made his daily deliveries, he realised he could help in other ways, too. From changing timepieces when the clocks went forward and collecting the recycling each week, to obtaining new batteries for hearing aids, he’s been happy to lend a hand, always being careful to observe social distancing.

“One lady has a dog and normally her daughter exercises it. When her daughter wasn’t able to visit, she asked if I could take it for walks. She warned me that it has always been nervous around men but now she jokes that the dog likes me best!”

In his community Ken has become more than a good neighbour; he’s a lifeline in uncertain times.

“It’s strange, really, because social distancing has brought us closer together. We know each other so much better now and those daily chats help me, too. It can be frightening for the elderly when they are listening to the news, especially when they live on their own. Talking to them daily, reassures them. I’m getting plenty of exercise, improving my mental health and doing something useful. Best of all, I’ve made a totally unexpected group of friends.”

Les Clarke, executive director of care and support at Care Plus, explained that Ken is one of dozens of neighbours who have come forward to help others in their retirement living communities:

“Self isolation could have brought great loneliness as well as practical difficulties for older people,” he said. “We have been working hard to check-in on vulnerable residents, with thousands of telephone calls made each week by our own team and by volunteers from other parts of the Group. We have arranged socially distant activities like online sing-alongs and helped where customers have found it difficult to obtain online food deliveries. Alongside the work that we are doing, people like Ken have provided fantastic support for their neighbours.

“We set out to make a positive difference for homes, lives and communities. Ken is a reminder that our customers are doing that too, contributing to neighbourhoods across Staffordshire and Shropshire in ways that often go unnoticed.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Clare Chick .

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