Health & wellbeing
Winter Friends: Keep yourself and others warm and well this winter!
For some people, winter means one thing: Christmas. But for others, winter can be a really difficult time of year. Cold weather, short days, icy pavements: all of these can conspire to make these months more isolating for older people living on their own. Often it’s a struggle just to get out of the house. Even when we don’t factor in Covid restrictions, many older people find their health declining over the winter. Sometimes it’s because of the cold, sometimes it’s because they’re isolated or lonely. It’s not just coughs and colds that are a problem; when we’re on our own with nobody to see, it affects our mental health too. Wouldn’t it be good if people had a friend to help them out over the next few months? Someone to look out for them and see if they are ok?
Winter Friends is a new scheme from Leeds City Council that aims to connect people up to make sure we all stay warm and well this winter. There are lots of helpful and good-hearted people who live in Leeds. The scheme aims to make sure these people know what to do to help older people where they live. Over the page we hear from Helena Hamilton about all the details of the scheme. But first, we meet Kim and Peggy, who are part of a supportive community in the form of a Luncheon Club. They are both part of the Winter Friends scheme in Oakwood.
coming along for a chat and a hot meal really helps with isolation
Winter Friends: Kim, Peggy and Mary
Kim volunteers at the Oakwood Luncheon Club which is based at Oakwood Methodist Church. Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, she has been helping the members to keep them from feeling isolated. She’s helped Mary with her weekly food shop so she was able to self-isolate. She’s also kept in touch with Peggy over the phone and run errands when she can. Although they have been unable to meet in person as they usually would, Kim has kept in touch with all Luncheon Club members over the phone, text or email, which has been greatly appreciated. One particular member has sadly had several falls over the past year and has found lockdown particularly isolating, but Kim has been keeping in touch and also contacting her son if she has any particular concerns so she can get the support she needs. The Luncheon Club is now back to meeting face-to-face, but Kim still acts as a Winter Friend to all the members. We spoke to Kim and Peggy and asked them to share their thoughts:
Peggy: I’m 92 and I was born in Leeds. I’ve lived here all my life. I wasn’t born at this side of the city. I was the youngest in quite a large family. My mum had 7 children and became a widow. They’ve all passed on now. I just have my son, but he lives in the USA. He does very well and comes over when he can, depending on the government restrictions. I last saw him in October. I live in Oakwood now; I’ve been here on my own for over 20 years.
Kim runs the Luncheon Club and I go every Thursday. The object of the Luncheon Club is to meet other people and to listen to people who might be isolated. People who are in a similar situation to me. I do very well. Someone always helps with the shopping. I’m in a block of flats and people are very good there.
The Luncheon Club is very important for the elderly. We keep up to date with anyone who can’t be there because they’re ill. If someone isn’t there who normally is, you want to know where they are! You find out about other things that are going off too. Last week someone came in to do exercises with us, which was good. I’m hoping to go back to church again very soon.
Kim: I go to Oakwood Methodist Church and over the years I’ve been involved with all sorts of things. I currently take Home Communion to a lady in a nursing home and to another elderly couple. I got involved in volunteering in about 2017 with the Luncheon Club and took over the running of it in 2019. Just to do my bit, really!
By profession I’m a nurse. I haven’t worked for a while because my 3 children are my full-time job. But my love is older people’s nursing and end-of-life care. This role came along and was perfect for me. I love working with older people! I could sit and listen to their stories forever.
We’ve got about 30-odd people on the books of the Luncheon Club. Over Covid, we had to close but I kept in contact with people every week or two over the phone. People were really thankful of a conversation over lockdown. I took a little gift for everyone round last Christmas and put the Winter Friends information in with that.
I’ll do a little bit of shopping for Peggy if she needs bits and bobs. I’ve also done shopping for another lady from church [Mary] since 2020. Doing a bit of Pharmacy pick-up, posting letters, doing a bit of dry cleaning – just odd bits. Letting people know that I’m here if they need me. You don’t want people being lonely and isolated. Sadly, a lot of older people have had falls and have lost a bit of confidence. Some people don’t want to come back to the Club yet. So I keep in touch with them. You just want to be a helping hand really.
The Winter Friends concept is brilliant. A lot of people don’t have family close by. So coming along for a chat and a hot meal really helps with isolation. There are all sorts of groups at the church – there’s loads going on – and I’m always trying to help our older members get involved. This week at the Club we’re celebrating someone’s 100th birthday! It’s lovely, really lovely.
Oakwood Luncheon Club takes place every Thursday from 11.30am. Contact Kim for more information on 07803 124517 or email email@example.com
Helena Hamilton explains how getting involved in the Winter Friends scheme can help both you and other older people you know. Keep warm and well this winter!
Looking Out for Others
It's never been more important to look out for other people in our own communities - and that's what Winter Friends is all about. Winter can be tough, but for some it's a real struggle, plus with the added difficulties caused by the pandemic, many are facing isolation and loneliness once again this year. The Winter Friends campaign encourages people across the city to look out for others.
It’s for everyone!
Anyone can be a Winter Friend! In fact, many people already are without even realising it. A Winter Friend is someone you can count on - a friendly and helpful member of the community who genuinely cares about the wellbeing of people around them. It's sensing when someone needs a bit of support and offering a helping hand without expecting anything in return. Perhaps this sounds like you? Our campaign would like to champion those amazing people in our city who look out for their neighbours. We want to share and encourage that
neighbourly spirit, as it's often the simplest acts of kindness that go a long way to making someone feel cared for and that truly can make a big difference to someone's life.
What can I do?
We've seen examples of Winter Friends collecting and dropping off well-needed provisions or teaching someone to set up an online shopping account; more frequently people are checking in on their neighbours, and street WhatsApp groups have been created to keep in touch and stay connected. Many have gritted and cleared pathways for older, less mobile or pregnant neighbours during bad weather. There's also been lots of helpful local knowledge shared about winter wellness, mental wellbeing, as well as some lovely family recipe sharing too!
Nothing is too big or small - what could you do t0 show someone you're there and could help? We welcome Leeds as a pioneering city for wellness and health, and know we have some of the most caring communities around so whether you're already doing something great, or are thinking of reaching out to someone for the first time, being a Winter Friend is an easy way of showing your support.
You can access some brilliant resources on the website from useful information to share with family/friends,
or a printable calling card to leave your contact number with a neighbour should they need your help.
To find out more or to show your support head to www.winterfriends.org or look for Winter Friends Leeds on social media.
If you want to find out more about the Winter Friends scheme call the coordinator Michelle on 07739 635458.
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