Like me you might have an elderly neighbour who lives on their own. My neighbour often sits outside her house and my children love to go up to her and chat about their day and what they have been up to. I can’t help thinking this is one of the only daily interactions she gets, but she seems to thrive on it! She isn’t alone, according to Norman Lamb today, there’s 3.8 million older people over the age of 75 whom live alone, of which 60% are women.
Norman Lamb made these comments today in the Daily Telegraph in an effort to encourage the 173,000 Neighbourhood Watch groups around the UK to play their part in keeping an eye on any elderly within their area. I think it’s a great idea for a number of reasons.
Firstly it’s a great way to encourage a community spirit – something that for generations, Britain has been renowned for, yet many feel is currently on the wane. Sadly we hear of situations where an older person has sadly passed away in their home without anyone noticing.
Secondly, what a way to lift the spirits of an older person whose life under normal circumstances would revolve around getting out of bed, getting washed, sitting in a chair and going back to bed. As Mr Lamb pointed out, “that is a miserable life”. It’s difficult to imagine how it must feel to be so isolated, perhaps with family members living in other parts of the country or even abroad. So for them to have someone locally popping round for a bit of a chat and a cuppa can surely only be a positive thing.
Thirdly it will no doubt give real peace of mind to family who for whatever reasons find themselves out of the immediate area and unable to provide essential daily help. At Telecare24, the vast majority of our careline alarm clients are elderly and live alone, often battling with a range of long term health conditions. We often speak to families who live a great distance away and it can prove very difficult for them to provide any daily care. Whilst a personal alarm is a way of being alerted to any immediate emergency, it doesn’t replace a real human being popping round on a regular basis.
Norman Lamb has muted the idea that the Neighbourhood Watch Groups could in fact provide simple care tasks with the right training. By being encouraged to apply to their Local Authority for a care licence, these groups could provide welcome relief to a care system that is severely under pressure.
So it seems these proposals make a lot of sense. Let’s keep an eye on this initiative and see if it becomes a reality. No matter what though, I’ll still encourage my kids to chat to our lovely neighbour!