“I felt rejected and forgotten about until I got your call. It’s nice to talk to someone and to know they’re thinking of you.” Elizabet, 80
We’re halfway through our first ever Winter Wellbeing project: since October we’ve been supporting people aged 65 and over to keep warm, active and connected across Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
The conversations our older neighbours have had with us and their younger neighbours have brought joy and laughter, but have also at times highlighted the difficulty many of them face in the colder months. This is reflected in the fact that Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of pensioner poverty in England: half of all residents aged 60 and over are living below the poverty line, more than three times the rate nationally. Meanwhile Hackney has the second highest rate of pensioner poverty in England. Working in collaboration with brilliant organisations across our boroughs, our aim is to connect our older neighbours with the support that can ease the challenges of winter.
Here, we share the stories of some of the neighbours we’ve met so far during the project:
We met 74 year old David while doing street outreach in Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets. Waiting for his bus, we got talking and despite at first being shy, it didn’t take long before David started telling us the incredible stories of his life. One of these many stories is how David ended up accidentally meeting the Beatles not once, twice, but three times. The second meeting involved David accidentally being given a staff badge intended for professional dancers while attending a concert of the Beatles, ending up having to “slowly dance his way off the stage” in front of a large, screaming crowd.
Our meeting with David shows not only how much you can gain from striking around seemingly random conversations with people, but also the value of hitting the streets as part of the Winter Wellbeing project. David wasn’t getting out and about as much as he would have liked, and is now one of the 265 older neighbours in our network, meeting his younger End End neighbours at our Social Clubs and keeping connected.
Jeewaun: the foodie fanatic
We met 81 year old Jeewaun while at a LinkAge Plus coffee morning in Wapping. Getting to know him a little better, his love and appreciation of food and cooking quickly became clear, and Jeewaun has since been to our Pizza Party, Breadmaking, Brunch, and Cheese and Wine Social Clubs.
In a particularly cold spell of weather, we were also able to help Jeewaun by delivering a hat, gloves, flask and blanket, which help him keep warm both in the home, and on the way to and from his foodie Social Clubs. We were also able to give him a small grant to help pay for an electric blanket and his heating bills this winter.
Elizabet: a pillar of the community
We met Elizabet at Hackney Council’s Winter Warmer event, and she told us the cold was really getting to her. Being left without any heating for three days, she was unsure of where to get help. With her fridge and freezer also both being broken, Elizabet had to resort to storing food and milk on her balcony in order to stop it spoiling.
We were able to call round with a blanket, hot water bottle, thermal socks and a flask, and talk to her about other larger issues she was facing in keeping her home warm. We connected her up to the Hackney Council repairs team to look at her heating, and applied for a Friend of the Elderly grant on her behalf, to pay for a new fridge-freezer.
She told us about her love of literature, playing piano and singing, and putting a spot of rum in her tea. After chatting with Elizabet over a (rum-free) cuppa, we were able to give her a Winter Wellbeing grant to put towards food vouchers and her heating bills.
We also connected her to organisations such as SHINE to help keep her home warmer for longer, and a community garden for her to get involved in. Finally, we helped her sign up to our Social Clubs. She’s looking forward to our choir where she can share her musical skills with her other neighbours, telling us: “I love learning and I love being with young people, they make me feel young myself".
Over the project, other ways we have been reaching people are through:
What is next
Over the next three month we will be continuing to support older people by:
How you can help
We have been able to reach more older people through the help of the community and those who have been kindly spreading the word. Ways you can help out as we approach the second half of the project are:
Thank you for everything you’ve done so far to help us during our first Winter Wellbeing project.
If you have any questions or want to know more, please get in touch with Sasha at: [email protected], or 0793 691 5430.
Posted by Sasha Khan on Friday 24th January 2020
Sasha is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at East London Cares, reaching older and younger neighbours and connecting them to our Social Clubs, Love Your Neighbour programme and Winter Wellbeing project. Previously Sasha has worked at Age UK and Coram, and volunteered at our sibling charity North London Cares.