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‘Adopt a grandparent’ urges charity boss as elderly fear being alone amid coronavirus outbreak

PUBLISHED: 13:38 08 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:38 08 April 2020

Jeffrey Prosser, who is chairman of the trustees of the Norfolk branch of Age UK. Pic: submitted

Jeffrey Prosser, who is chairman of the trustees of the Norfolk branch of Age UK. Pic: submitted

A boss of Norfolk’s Age UK charity needs volunteers to “adopt a grandparent” to help people who fear being cut off more than catching coronavirus.

Age UK Norfolk needs more vollunteers to phone old people in isolation during coronavirus. Pic: Age UKAge UK Norfolk needs more vollunteers to phone old people in isolation during coronavirus. Pic: Age UK

Jeffrey Prosser, chairman of trustees for the Norfolk branch of Age UK, said older people were terrified of isolation while the country is on lockdown. He is asking for more volunteers to take part in its telephone befriending scheme whereby you ring a pensioner and simply have a chat.

And while he praised staff for going “not the extra mile but an extra 10 miles” in supporting vital work during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Prosser raised serious concerns over funding going forward.

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Whereas the Norfolk branch of the charity usually gets a minimum of £124,000 a year from two large charity shops in King’s Lynn and Dereham as well as the Elms business centre in Norwich, all this funding stopped while in lockdown. The charity also has to pay rent on the shops which it is hoping landlords will give them a payment holiday on.

But above all, he said, it is the human cost of coronavirus.

He added that older people were less fearful of catching coronavirus, because they lived on their own, but it was the thought of not receiving their usual telephone calls from volunteers that scared them the most.

“One of my volunteers who speaks regularly to a 90-year-old lady told me she had said: ‘Will the calls stop now because of coronavirus? When the volunteer said of course not, the lady said: ‘Thank goodness, I rely on those calls as it’s the only contact I have with the outside world’.”

The Norfolk branch currently has about 200 volunteers doing as many as 800 calls a month but Mr Prosser is urging more people to sign up.

But he said he was impressed at the “upsurge” in community activity.

“I have been very pleasantly surprised by the goodwill, for me it’s proved there is such a thing as a compassionate society, I just hope that when coronavirus is over, this community spirit doesn’t disappear.

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