The second in our new blog series, Keeping Mum. With Winter on the way, and uncertainty about new Coronavirus regulations, Annabel looks at some ways to keep busy in the coming months.
The mum of a friend has launched her winter project: mending and darning clothes for family and friends. It has always been her passion, giving her enormous satisfaction, and particularly in later life, a sense of purpose. I have fully embraced her project with an embarrassing pile of clothes in sorry need of buttons, elbows, hems etc to give her; and if my pile is anything to go by she is going to be busy way beyond the winter.
In a similar vein, one of our team has taken ownership of a beautiful desk crafted by her father-in-law from an old kitchen table; a passion he has always had, but now in retirement something he can really enjoy doing, that has a purpose.
In the Age Space bunker we have been trying to see the positives of what is doubtless going to be a long, dark winter for so many elderly parents and relatives, stuck at home maybe alone, for months, frightened to go out and anxious for their health.
It may not be sewing or carpentry, but everyone has a skill, a passion or area of knowledge they can share. Alongside this, everyone wants to feel valued and to play their part in their communities, something that has been so absent for so many older people since March this year – often the beating heart of the neighbourhood.
Time we think therefore to unleash these passions, the tinkering away in a garage, the meticulous hours over decades perfecting a skill that many of us could only dream of. And even if your parent or relative struggles to think of something they can share they most likely have that most valuable commodity of all – time. And all from the comfort of their home, and certainly within whatever the rules are or become.
Don't forget that there is plenty of television to watch, books to read, games to play and podcasts to listen to. Find out more from our Coronavirus entertainment guides, full of top picks for the elderly.
So, in the spirit of a purposeful winter herewith a quick fire round of a few ideas to help our elderly parents and relatives survive and hopefully thrive:
Encourage them to become befrienders themselves making regular calls to someone who might be isolated or lonely; Age UK is currently running a campaign to encourage more people to become phone friends over the winter.
The Slow Map of Britain
The Slow Map of Britain - this is genius; a walking map of Britain currently being developed. They need 10,000 volunteers to help them create a network of walking routes that connect all of the UK’s towns, cities and thousands of villagers. You don’t need to walk far to help – what a lovely way to spend the winter.
A Community Kitchen
If they like cooking, perhaps prepare an extra portion or two to give to someone who would really appreciate it: a family struggling to put food on the table, an elderly neighbour no longer able to cook, a local charity providing meal deliveries; or go the whole hog and start a community larder – a cool, dry cupboard or box – located somewhere in the neighbourhood where anyone can leave food to be collected by those who need it.
Reading with the kids
With so many school children struggling to catch up, reading with the grandchildren or local kids over the phone or zoom is a way to stay connected and to really help out.
Share a skill
Whether it be darning, carpentry or sorting out paperwork – everyone has something they like that someone else hates doing!
Along with the sewing I’m actively looking for someone to sort out my filing, and maybe once they’ve finished that, they could move on to putting my photos in albums…
If your parents have green fingers, perhaps they could help someone with a planting plan for the year whether in pots, window sills or gardens; what to plant, where and when; worth it’s weight in gold. Or again, grow their own veg for someone else.
Start a cook club
Live skype or zoom demonstrations/chats to share (some) secrets of decades of pastry making, store cupboard cooking, the perfect Sunday roast.
Your parents may not feel able to own a pet any longer so perhaps instead they could look after someone else’s pet; wonderful company and certainly in the case of a dog, all that unconditional love, without the wet dog walks.
I wish so much that we had the answers for a long winter ahead. Hopefully some of these will help. Please share with us any ideas you’ve got…. we’re all in it together – whichever tier you find yourself in right now……
Annabel James is the founder of AgeSpace. All views are her own.