Age UK York's new chief officer JENNIFER ALLOTT has a message of reassurance to older readers - and their families

"I started work as Chief Officer of Age UK York on Monday Match 16, for possibly the most challenging and eventful week of the charity’s fifty year history.

Luckily, Sally Hutchinson, our experienced outgoing Chief Officer, was there to guide me through, and the Age UK staff and volunteers stepped up to the situation brilliantly.

Our clients are anxious and worried about COVID19, and their families are too. We’ve seen a huge increase in calls from people enquiring about our services.

Our aim throughout this crisis is to ensure older people are safe, have access to necessities and we have put in place measures to reduce their social isolation. We’ve spent the week providing emergency shopping, checking on the welfare of older and isolated people and providing a lot of reassurance.

We started the week closing our Day Clubs. Two hundred people in the city depend on our clubs as a source of social interaction. It was devastating to close them, but the staff immediately opened ‘virtual’ day clubs.

We will be calling everyone who attends the clubs and ensuring they are safe and well and have a good chat each week. We’ll also be able to help them with the practicalities of self-isolation, such as getting their shopping in.

We’re also preparing for significant demand for our hospital transport services and are desperately trying to get hold of the protective equipment our drivers need to transport people safely.  

We’ve seen the best side of the city this week. We’ve been inundated with offers of help.

We can’t take on volunteers at the moment, as the training is intensive and normally takes place face-to-face. We also do checks on our volunteers to ensure the safety of our clients, and of course these take time.

What we can ask people to do is raise funds. We’ve set up a Justgiving campaign and we’ve been blown away by the generosity shown. Nicholas Bramley, who is stuck at home, is doing a sponsored 10,000 steps a day to support us. These funds are vital to our ongoing response.

The week ended with closing our shops. This will mean a significant loss of income to us, which will be difficult to make up. Whatever happens, though, Age UK York will be helping the elderly and isolated at their time of need."

Jennifer Allott