Our CEO, Meryl Davies, asks when the current lockdown might end for older people.
This lockdown is crucial but it’s challenging for all of us. Here at Re-engage, our tea party groups are joyful, life-affirming gatherings that bring generations together and are a lifeline for isolated older people. Making the decision to suspend the groups, as the government announced the ‘delay’ phase, wasn’t easy. Of course, I want everyone to be safe, but it was heartbreaking to ask our volunteers to stop organising the tea parties which mean so much to so many.
We are committed to helping the over-75s who are socially isolated, and the current situation means there are even more people who are living that reality: isolated from the world and all too aware of their own vulnerability. At a time like this, a charity like Re-engage must work out how best to respond to the crisis.
Our response has been to roll out call companions, and I’m thrilled that so many people have come forward to help. We’re hearing wonderful stories about volunteers calling the older people in their groups. And every day, members of our team are speaking to older people new to Re-engage, who are now looking forward to hearing from their call companion.
Is this a temporary service? No, not at all. We desperately want our tea party groups to get back up and running, but call companions can sit alongside these and support people we haven’t been able to reach before.
But just when will the tea parties start again?
Right now, nobody knows when the government will formally end the lockdown. We do know that it is likely to be done in phases.
There’s a lot of speculation in the press that the government will recommend a longer quarantine for older people. There’s a great deal of guesswork about what the cut-off point might be: over 50s to stay at home longer? Over 65s? Over 70s? An MP has been quoted in the press as saying that the message from the government to older people will be: ‘This virus is deadly, it’s killed more than 20,000 people. Do you want to be one of the victims?’
This is not a helpful thing to say to a group of millions of people born across several decades. Some of these people have jobs; some have caring responsibilities for loved ones of all ages; some are housebound and some have multiple ‘underlying conditions’, to use the term we now hear so often.
Of course, as the average age of our guests is 85, we'll be keeping a careful eye on all the guidance that comes from the government. And, however much we all long to see our tea parties up and running again, it may well be many, many months before it is wise or safe for the older people we work with to head outside, and especially to gather in groups.
In the meantime, we’ll keep rising to the evolving challenge and seeking ways to keep social connections alive.
Thank you for being part of this fabulous force for good in these particularly challenging times.