Online volunteers supporting others

Ellie is 82 and a peer support volunteer for MRS Independent Living, volunteering for the Silverlinks project in Hackney. She has been supported to learn how to use the internet on a tablet, and is now taking the tablet and her knowledge out into the local community to support other older people with using the internet to find information.

 

Many older people do not use the internet, and are increasingly having trouble keeping their knowledge of housing & social care options and services up to date.  Older people are increasingly excluded as more and more services are delivered online.  This project aims to teach people how to use the internet to access services and find information and advice online.

To date, ten volunteers in Hackney have been trained use the internet to find informaiton about housing & care and will now be passing this  knowledge on to others, with each volunteer committing to helping at least another three people.

Ellie gave a talk at a recent event held by MRS in Hackney aimed at older people wanting to find out more information about housing & care options in the area, where she shared her experience of using the internet to find information & advice.

She talked about a couple of websites she’s found which have been very useful such as Hackney iCare, which has a lot of information and advice with regard to grants, sheltered housing, home adaptations, help at home and information on how to  access these services.

 

Volunteers like Ellie are now helping others to access information on housing & care on the website – Ellie says: “I found searching on the internet has been very fascinating indeed… I hope I’ve shown the extent of information one can get online and how useful using the internet can be”.

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Can too much “stuff” in the home affect our decisions about our living situation?

One of the areas that our Silverlinks workers and volunteers often come across is that older people feel they have too much “stuff” to enable them to make decisions about their housing.  To much stuff in the home can cause health issues, in terms of mental health, isolation and depression, and physical issues from increasing risk of falls, fire etc.  It is also a major barrier to people making positive decisions about their living situation.

One lady who has been supported by a Silverlinks volunteer was unable to manage in her home so was wanting to downsize. However, the amount of paperwork and possessions in her home meant that she could not face the thought of moving.  She had support to sort through some of her things, which enabled her to have adaptations in her home.  She is now in a position where she can live independently in her home.  She is still considering moving, but now feels that she will be able to make a positive decision about it when the time comes.

I recently met with some volunteers from Nottingham and Rochdale to talk about this, thinking about how people struggle to declutter and the effect this can have on decisions they make.  The main points made by both groups were very similar, which I have summarised below:

  • Sometimes clutter can be a barrier to having improvements made to the home, such as repairs or adaptations. It can also cause people to put off making decisions eg about moving home, as they cannot see beyond their possessions.
  • The problem is often “where to start” – once this has been done, people find it easier to continue. Having someone who understands there for moral support can be a great help.
  • Possessions can be a physical representation of a memory (eg gifts, souvenirs etc.) which makes them hard to discard.
  • A barrier to decluttering is that people worry that if a professional helps them, they will encourage them throw everything out. People need to realise that they don’t have to get rid of all of their things – it is good to keep things we use, treasure and like to look back on.
  • Our possessions are valuable to us –either in monetary or sentimental/emotional terms. Many people feel better about getting rid of things if they know they are going to a good home, such as being donated to a charity, and be reused and continue to be of value to people.
  • Help from people who understand the situation would be of value.
  • Information & advice about where people can take their things would be of great use. For example, where to take books, clothes or furniture.   This could be a leaflet, group talk or individual support.
  • Practical help to distribute items or be at the home when collection is made (eg furniture collection) would also be welcomed.
  • It is important that anybody that provides this support, is trusted by the older person and that there is no “agenda”. People worry about making large changes to the way they live, and need to take these changes gradually.

Thank you to everyone who provided their valuable input to this discussion.

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Silverlinks Cornwall update: “A Day in the Life” event

It has been a busy few months for the Silverlinks Cornwall project with a variety of tasks undertaken in the run up to our recent event.

It has taken Ann and I some months to organise our Disability Awareness ‘A Day In The

Here is Phil Best one of our Housing Solutions Officers & Muriel Hewitt (right) one of our Silverlinks volunteers manning the home solutions stall and offering advice about the services Home Solutions offer.

Life’ event which was aimed specifically at able bodied people to raise awareness of different disabilities. We wanted to organise an event where able bodied individuals could experience what it was like to have a disability with demonstration stalls from Hearing Loss Cornwall, ISight Cornwall, Cornwall Mobility Centre and Express Stairlifts all bringing along fantastic resources to add to the experience.

Cornwall Mobility Centre’s (CMC) stall had a selection of their bestselling aids that offer a range of assistance for independent living that can be used in the home or out in the community. CMC also had a powered wheelchair on display for people to trial out; Ann and I had set up an obstacle course so people could learn how to manoeuvre around in the powered wheelchair.

Express Stair lifts had a portable demonstration stair lift that they brought along so people could see how the stair lift works and to ‘myth bust’ so common

Here we have Express stair lift’s advising of different options available and offering a demonstration on their display model.

questions; many people assume a stair lift is fitted to the wall however stair lift rails are actually anchored to the surface of the stairs and is not attached to the wall at all.

Isight Cornwall’s stall had a wide variety of products on display and for people to trial. They also brought along visual impairment glasses which mimic different impairments for instances; cataracts, peripheral vision and tunnel vision to mention a few.

The organisations specifically mentioned above were not our only stall holders offering information, advice and demonstration products on the day, a full list of stall holders and links to their website’s can be found at the end of this blog entry.

Here Julie Sellars from the Royal British Legion is experiencing what it is like to use a powered wheelchair and trialling out the obstacle course

The event was a success and we received some fantastic feedback about the event and services that stall holders were offering across the county; many people commented (including professionals) that they felt more informed about a variety of options and services available to them that they previously knew nothing about.

Ann & I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all of our stall holders for attending on the day and a thank you is also owed to the members of the public and professionals that came along on the day.

Full list of stall holders who attended the Disability Awareness Day:

Here is a picture of a selection of our stall holders

Cornwall Mobility Centre:

https://www.cornwallmobility.co.uk/

Hearing Loss Cornwall:

http://www.hearinglosscornwall.org/

I Sight Cornwall:

http://www.isightcornwall.org.uk/

Express Stair Lifts:

http://www.expressstairliftrentals.co.uk/stairlift-purchase-new

Cornwall Home Solutions:

https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/housing/home-solutions/

Age UK:

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/cornwall/

Cornwall Dementia Partnership: https://www.dementiaaction.org.uk/local_alliances/20400_cornwall_dementia_partnership

Cornwall Housing Independent Living Service:

https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/housing/independent-living-service-lifeline/independent-living-service-further-information/

Volunteer Cornwall:

https://www.volunteercornwall.org.uk/

Royal Voluntary Service:

https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/hubs/1273-cornwall-and-devon

South West Water:

https://www.southwestwater.co.uk/bills/struggling-to-pay/watersure-tariff/

Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change:

https://www.cn4c.org.uk/

Kernow Carers Service:

https://www.supportincornwall.org.uk/kb5/cornwall/directory/carers.page

Wiltshire Farm Foods:

https://www.wiltshirefarmfoods.com/

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Opportunity to Comment: Parliamentary Inquiry on Housing for Older People

The Communities and Local Government Committee is holding an inquiry on housing for older people. The Committee has set up a forum to hear directly from older people about their experiences of moving home in later life.  We would like to encourage as many people as possible to respond by the deadline of Monday 27th November.

Please lick on the link below for more information and to send in your comments (which can be anonymous).

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/housing-for-older-people-online-forum/

 

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Why I volunteer: our new Silverlinks volunteer Mark shares what motivates him

My name is Mark Hillary and I tried to retire last year when I turned 60. My wife said I had to keep busy so I did a Workers Education Association (WEA) course on Cathedral Architecture at the Mechanics Institute next door to Age UK Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

As I walked by their Bradbury House offices I noticed they had a Housing Options drop-in service on a Friday morning and thought I might be able to help.  As well as a professional interest in housing, I teach the Housing Degree for the Institute of Housing. I remembered that my mum had had an Age UK funeral plan and it was a great solace to her in her declining years.  These years were also greatly enhanced by getting her to move closer to me and her granddaughters. But it was complicated to organise the move. It was then that I realised that other people could do with a hand with housing – related issues.

I am fortunate, having a nice home and pensions but through a career in Local Government and Social Housing I have come across lots of people much less well off than me.  I was a Head of Service with Nottingham City Council and think I usually understand bureaucracies, but it gets harder as you get older and particularly when everything goes online.  I worked in London for 25 years and still run a small housing training & consultancy business and I am also really interested in quality management.

Mark at the information stand at a local community health hub

The reality is that since I tried to give up work I have just got busier and busier and in the last year I have been fortunate enough to go to the United Arab Emirates on a few occasions to assess the quality of housing in Dubai.   Remembering my mother’s struggle I feel I understand and really want to use my knowledge help older people.  I also really believe in mixing up the generations and, having worked with apprentices for 20 years, tried to pass on knowledge and skills to the next generations.

We recently did a “ward round” style drop in visit to Lings Bar hospital. I remember that my mum was in there after being discharged from the Queens Medical Centre here in Nottingham. The lack of suitable housing and care and the “bed blocking” issue are among the big quality issues I am really interested in. On the day we visited the wards it was so rewarding to just chat to people who may feel isolated and frightened being away from home and not knowing exactly what is going to happen.  My Mum had me to help her, but sometimes the standard of care fell short and it horrifies me that there are older, vulnerable people out there being ripped off on equity release schemes or simply neglected who just need a word of advice or someone they can just talk to about what is worrying them.

I believe keeping busy and active is vital as we get older and last summer I volunteered to trek across Iceland to raise money for Shelter.   Offering support and advice through Silverlinks and Housing Options at Age UK Nottingham and Nottinghamshire may not always be easy but believe me it’s much easier on the feet and back than climbing up glaciers and camping on the hard ground in the frozen north!

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New Silverlinks Guides: Planning Ahead for housing needs with a long term condition

Silverlinks has produced a set of new guides, aimed at older people with long term health conditions and their carers.

There are six guides covering respiratory, macular and heart disease, dementia, stroke and arthritis; and one general guide for people with long term conditions.

Each guide advises on what people can do to their home to make living with these conditions more manageable. They also describe the range of alternative housing options and offers suggestions about where to find more detailed information, advice and help.

You can access the guides on our “Information for Older People” page .

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Integration in Action: new report from Silverlinks Nottinghamshire

A new report published by Care & Repair England highlights the impact of housing and health, with focus on how the Silverlinks programme in Nottinghamshire (delivered by Age UK Nottingham & Nottinghamshire) is helping older people being discharged from hospital.

The report demonstrates how an integrated approach to health and housing can lead to outcomes such as reduced risk of re-admission, improved wellbeing and reduced risk of premature admission into residential care.

It also looks at how Silverlinks in Nottinghamshire is contributing to NHS England’s  Engagement Programme which highlights the importance of housing in relation to health – in particular how suitable housing can prevent people being admitted to hospital, be discharged from hospital, and remain living independently in the community.

Click here to download 

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Silverlinks “Options for Housing & Care in Later Life” event in Hackney

Thursday saw the first of the Silverlinks activities in Hackney, London.  Silverlinks in Hackney and the City of London is being delivered by MRS Independent Living.

MRS held an event in a local community centre, part of a housing area called Banister House in Homerton.  The event, “Options for Housing and Care in Later Life” was to provide older people in the area with information & advice, and to provide details of who to contact if they had any issues with their housing and care.

Terry Bednall, who organised and facilitated the event, arranged a number of service providers to do short talks.    These covered Housing Options – types of housing, adaptations and repairs for homeowners and tenants;  care – covering care at home, blue badges, and getting out and about – details on services such as a local Mind group, befriending services and a novel bicycle taxi that can help older people get around in the area.

The event was very well attended with 70 people coming along to find out more  – it was standing room only as people continued to arrive throughout the morning.  There were many interesting questions brought up by those there – including accessing services for repairs when someone is a homeowner of a flat within a leasehold block; access top blue badges; and also some comments about adaptations and repairs that people had already had.

 

A very successful event and we are looking forward to the next one!

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Sheltered Housing: older people’s perceptions of choice and independence are key

Silverlinks in Rochdale is delivered by HMR Circle, a well-established organisation for older people.   Circle were approached by RBH (Rochdale Borough Housing) to see if any Silverlinks volunteers could help them with some research into older people’s views of sheltered housing.   RBH manages several independent living schemes (also known as sheltered housing) for people over the age of 55 and have recently experienced a decline in demand. RBH wanted to better understand the level of awareness and appeal of these properties to older people, and gain insight into what appeals and what doesn’t appeal.

Kim Ho, who delivers the Silverlinks project, gathered together several volunteers to form discussion groups.  The people were grouped by those that rejected the idea of moving to an independent living scheme and those who were open to the idea, and were split by age to see if any of these factors made a difference to a person’s perception of the schemes.

Findings

Overall, awareness of the availability of schemes seemed to be low, and a move to this type of housing is rarely seen as a “choice”.  Those that were “younger old” (55 – 64) would be more likely to consider independent living schemes if they had existing health issues; 65 – 74 year olds viewed a move as a “crisis move” and those over 75 were least likely to be open to the idea, preferring to meet their current needs at home.

The results of the discussions also found that there is a narrow view of who these type of schemes are for – people viewed them as being primarily for over 75s, mainly women, with mobility of care needs and no interest in outdoors.

Fundamental “must haves” were also identified by the groups.  Regardless of where you live, people felt that these fundamental choices were important:

  • Choice whether to be sociable or not
  • Choice to come and go as you please
  • Choice how to decorate your home
  • How much help & support you have with care providers
  • Whether you cook for yourself or not
  • Whether you wash, dry and iron your own clothes

Choice and independence is cherished, and people value total control over their lives, regardless of age.    Choice along with adaptations, helpful neighbours, family close by and an active social life were all considered key to create a positive lifestyle. The consultation also covered the design and atmosphere of the schemes.   People are looking for well-proportioned living space, and an engaging atmosphere  with a number of services (such as ability to keep a pet, wifi, café, regular trips out offered, additional storage, gardens).

If a scheme can offer all of these things, what would cause people to be wary of moving?

The focus groups identified that loss of independence is a fear for many people.  People fear becoming dependent on the scheme, they fear that living with only older people can be ageing, they may lose motivation to go out – not having their own front door is a factor in feeling independent, and they feel they may have a reduced choice of who they socialise with.

So what makes the ultimate scheme?  The focus group discussion came up with a list of what would make their ultimate housing scheme:

  • High quality décor throughout
  • High spec kitchens and bathrooms
  • Large living space
  • Big windows and lots of light
  • 24 hour warden service
  • Onsite café facility
  • Full programme of activities

Added security also adds to the appeal of a property, and those with additional mobility needs would also look for wider doorways, wetroom and wheelchair adapted kitchens.

Circle was able to provide several recommendations to RBH following the focus groups.   These included providing a choice of both formal and informal social activities at their schemes – a full activity programme including regular trips out; keeping independence and choice should be at the forefront of any schemes; consider larger flats and additional storage which would appeal to more people; promote use of guest accommodation and communal areas for entertaining guests which appeal to those that have family and friends visiting.

This was a really interesting piece of work, and RBH have already made several changes as a result of the recommendations – and since doing so have seen demand for their properties increase.     The key theme coming out of the work has really been that no matter where people live, they value the ability to live independently, with the choice to live as they wish.   Perception of sheltered housing schemes is sometimes that of being on par with a residential home, and promoting independent living, own front doors and a choice of social activities could help to change this view.

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Silverlinks Nottingham: Homelessness can affect anyone

Here is a blog from our Silverlinks project in Nottingham.

Little did Mary Clark, Nottingham Silverlinks co-ordinator at Age UK Notts., know what a journey she would be embarking on with client Cyril when she first met him at her weekly city centre Housing and Care Options drop in service.

Shadowed by a volunteer being newly inducted to the service, Mary took a moving history from Cyril, a charismatic, articulate 82-year-old ex-miner who had been caring for his partner of many years, who had recently been diagnosed with dementia.

Insurmountable wider family issues beyond Cyril’s control quickly culminated in him having to leave the person he loved and, crucially, his home, which was legally owned exclusively by his partner.

After a brief stay at a friend’s house Cyril found himself un-intentionally homeless and, proud above everything, preferring to sleep in his car than engage with local authority homelessness services.

Trust gained, Cyril allowed Mary then others to help him. He now lives in a beautiful secure centrally located alms house flat at the local John and Eliza Jelley Homes for older persons. It is a beautifully maintained, period site close to family, friends and amenities. He often says he will never forget the help he was given and the people who gave it when he needed it most.

The pictures here are of the behind-the-scenes preparations by drp production staff for a video Cyril kindly made in partnership with Age UK Notts., Silverlinks and the Nationwide Building Society as part of their staff training programme of corporate responsibility for 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The subject of Nationwide’s training programme is the raising of awareness that homelessness can affect anyone from any walk of life and age group, even, poignantly, our oldest citizens.

Mary was so glad to later be able to share with Cyril a message she got from Kat, Social Investment Manager at Nationwide.

“Thanks again for the opportunity to film with Cyril – his story has had a profound impact on many hundreds if not thousands of employees over the last weeks and will really help us galvanise our people to make a difference J

Here is the video itself, which simply says it all.

Best wishes from Mary and all at Age UK Notts. / Silverlinks Nottingham.

Cyril and Mary, in Cyril’s new home

 

 

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