Harrogate community support group helping people get out and about
Two years ago, the word coronavirus wasn’t in our vocabulary. We had no idea that the entire world would change beyond recognition and that we would all soon be living under restrictions that we could never have anticipated, let alone adapt to.
For many, the advice that your front door is the best protection against coronavirus made sense and people were happy to lockdown in their homes to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
As the pandemic has continued, however, it has become apparent that Covid-19 is something that we are all going to have to learn to live with.
The question is how do we return to normal, when normal has become to live away from those around us?
There are many people who are still apprehensive about everyday tasks like going shopping or for a day out.
But if we respect and protect each other by sticking to the Covid prevention basics such as wearing a face covering in busy public spaces, keeping up the good hand hygiene, testing ourselves regularly at home and having both doses of the vaccination, it will be possible to return to living our lives surrounded by the love and laughter of other people.
One way people are starting to get out and about is with the help of community support organisations such as Harrogate and District Community Action (HADCA).
HADCA is currently working to encourage people to leave their homes and reintegrate with the outside world.
They are organising events such as afternoon tea at the Swinton Estate, and a brand new friendship and exercise club will launch shortly. They also offer a befriending service, offering a lifeline to those isolated at home.
A firm friendship
Gordon Marriott, 83, connected with HADCA when his wife went into full-time care. He was matched with telephone befriender Jane and the two have built a firm friendship during the pandemic.
He said that Jane’s support has been crucial in helping him through the pandemic and rejoining community life.
Gordon said: “They got in touch with me last year, when I wasn’t able to go shopping.
“Jane phones once a week and we talk about my wife, Pam, and spend time reminiscing.”
Gordon has known Pam since she was three years old, an evacuee during the war she grew up on the next street and the two have been happily married for 60 years.
He clearly misses her greatly and he regularly watches videos of holidays recorded for the couple to watch during their retirement.
Gordon said Jane phoning is a welcome distraction. He said: “It’s nice to have someone to talk to. During lockdown I wasn’t able to go out as being over 80 I was vulnerable.
“We get on very well and sometimes she texts me.
“I also have a chap who rings called Alan. I talk about different things with him.
“I never met Alan, he lives on the way to Pateley Bridge. I used to pass his house every week and I never knew about it!”
An enormous help
Gordon’s befriender, Jane, has been telephone befriending since before lockdown and has recently begun visiting him in person.
She said: “I’m a little bit greedy, I have four old men I talk to, five including my husband!
“They’re all very different, one is a little bit younger than the other three, but they’re all incredibly interesting and I talk about different things with each one.”
Jane, 68, saw her first client at the beginning of last year. She said: “He’s become a really good friend. I think he clicked with me as much as I clicked with him.
“I hope he doesn't think I’m two-timing him.
“I love history, love reading, love gardening and I like finding out things. We talk about their lives, their families, it’s fabulous.
“Gordon is so easy to talk to, it’s always a two-way conversation. We talk about his family, he’s very family-orientated.
“During lockdown, from my point of view, talking helped. Conversations became much more helpful, they looked forward to them. I think it helped enormously.
“I’m an encourager and supporter and very much a listener.
“Gordon likes to go and see his wife and I’m trying to persuade him to get out and about and do more things.”
Jane started befriending in a bid to help combat loneliness. She said: “I fell into it, it’s the kind of person I am. I do know what it feels like to be lonely. Loneliness is one thing people find hard to own up to.
“I sat down one day and thought, lots of people are lonely. There must be something I can do and that’s when I started befriending. I benefit more myself than they do! There’s not many people as greedy as me and have four men.”
Can you lend a hand?
Lizzie Hughes from Harrogate and District Community Action said: “We definitely need more volunteers.
“As we come out of Covid-19 we’re focussing on re-ablement and helping people to meet others safely and get back to some form of normality.”
There are lots of areas people can get involved with from befriending to volunteer car driving and HADCA’s ‘help at home’ service which offers a helping hand with DIY, odd jobs and gardening.
A new friendship and exercise group at Ripon House also aims to bring people together in a safe and secure way.
To find out more about HADCA and the services they offer, visit www.hadca.org.uk or call 01423 504074
Some people are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 and not everyone is confident about being out and about as restrictions ease. We can all help to respect and protect each other by:
- being considerate and making space
- wearing a face covering in crowded public places
- keeping up with home testing twice a week
- being aware of the symptoms and self-isolating when you need to.
If you’re older than 18, please make sure you get both doses of the vaccination
Thank you for being part of Team North Yorkshire, you’re helping to keep our communities safe.