A neighbourly Christmas spirit
How we're trying to support older residents this winter
With the onset of winter – and the prospect of colder weather ahead – we’re aware that some older people may be more vulnerable at this time of year. One of the ways we’ve been trying to help is by visiting residents aged 75 and over to check whether they need any additional help or support.
This is no mean feat - we've aimed to reach an estimated 1,500 people living on our estates and in 'scattered' houses across 28 boroughs.
Our Neighbourhoods team, along with staff volunteers, have been spearheading this effort – that’s about 100 employees in all. With increasing fuel bills high on the news agenda, initial queries focused on heating: making sure everything is in working order and addressing any concerns.
We’ve also been promoting our home energy-saving service: through this advisors can visit residents at home to give free practical advice about using heating systems, radiators and thermostats, helping people to keep warm while reducing energy costs.
As part of these visits, we’ve also gained more knowledge of those who may need a little extra help from social services, for example, and we're following those cases up.
Occasionally, too, we’ve come across something that rings a few alarm bells (the son who won’t let us in to see his elderly mother because “it’ll upset her”). In those instances, we’ve made a note to investigate further.
Meeting our residents
Mrs B, 94, lives alone in her flat on the third floor of a block in N1. It's cosy, warm and welcoming and pictures of her family, who visit when they can, fill up the sideboard.
Sharp as a pin, Mrs B loves to chat. She doesn't get out much nowadays but a carer visits regularly to do her shopping and she's pleased. "I've known her for a while," she tells us. "I like her".
Frail now and with failing eyesight ("I can see two of you, you know"), she's delighted when her Peabody visitors manage to open a window that's been stuck for a while. "It’ll let the fresh air in now," she says. A simple task for us – but it’s made a difference.
Mr K, 82, looks the picture of health in his neat and tidy King's Cross flat but he says has had heart problems recently and his heating isn’t working properly so we investigate and come up with solutions.
Lying on the table is an inhaler which indicates he may have respiratory problems too so we take a special note.
Helping us too!
Going on these visits benefits Peabody too. As well as reassuring us that we’re doing the best we can for perhaps our most vulnerable residents, it's also an opportunity to look at the properties themselves.
David Morton, a mechanical engineer (pictured centre, above), is a regular volunteer who clearly cares about those he meets. He enjoys his visits very much but points out an added benefit: "sometimes it gives us an opportunity to access properties we haven’t seen for a while and check on their structural state. It's very useful."
Carrying out winter visits can also draw attention to sub-letting. "With its proximity to rail and tube stations, the estates around King's Cross can have a high proportion of sub-letting," says Michael Muiruri, Neighbourhood Manager. "This is a good way to build on the success of our recent campaigns around this."
We’re still trawling through the information we’ve collected during these visits and following up on issues we’ve identified. We weren't able to speak to everyone, of course. Some residents were out and some don't – or won't – open the door, understandably wary of strangers on their doorstep despite the Peabody badges.
Overall, though, it was an overwhelming positive experience which employees themselves enjoyed too. "What a great achievement that 100 volunteers from across Peabody took time to do this," says George Kirby, Assistant Head of Neighbourhoods. "We were able to reach out to many isolated and vulnerable residents to bring in much needed help and support. It's a great example of customer focussed and collaborative working and shows the caring side of Peabody’s work."
AgeUK campaign: Help an older person this winter