As I write this, it’s the day I receive my COVID-19 vaccination (have you had yours?). By coincidence, tomorrow marks one year since I started working with Hourglass, so it’s a time for me to reflect on what has been a year like no other.
I was barely a week into the job when lockdown measures were announced and enacted in the UK, in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of life as we knew it slowed down or stopped completely. There was uncertainty over who was at greatest risk from the virus, and how they might be affected.
And there were knock-on effects from the lockdown as well. Many people would find it harder to access essential items, like groceries, and over-70s in particular would become isolated, shielding at home.
What did not stop, sadly, was the risk and reality of harm and abuse toward older people. Hourglass immediately switched to remote working, and continued taking calls on our Helpline (our number is 0808 808 8141). But this wasn’t enough. So here in Scotland, we launched a food delivery service for isolated older people. The demand was high, but the response to this was overwhelming (particular thanks go to Duloch Juniors FC, who donated the bulk of goods). We also received a massive dose of volunteer offers. It seemed that, despite the fear, the uncertainty, the turmoil even – people still want to help.
It didn’t stop here. We also had a huge response to our recruitment of Helpline volunteers. We added a temporary telephone befriending service too, ensuring that isolated older people were guaranteed regular, friendly conversation, even if they couldn’t physically meet with people.
The virus hasn’t gone. We’re not through this yet. Many people have lost their lives, and many continue to suffer the effects – physical, emotional, and financial – of this disease. But we have seen huge strides in the treatment of it. Numbers are generally going in the right direction. We now have a number of vaccines, and the vaccination programme is moving on apace. So, while it’s not over, I think of this as a shot in the arm – a boost, an encouraging development.
Another boost, for me, is the goodness of people. I’ve had the chance in the past year to work with some extraordinary women and men, who have given freely of their time and skills to help others. The work of Hourglass is vital, perhaps now more than ever. But we are not alone. Our volunteers are a massive shot in the arm in the fight against the harm and abuse of older people. Could you join us?
To find out more about our work and our volunteering opportunities, visit www.wearehourglass.org/volunteer-us.
Blog post by Colin Scott, Community Response Co-ordinator (Scotland)