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Callers to SeniorLine needing help to manage their shopping

Posted on 12th January 2021

Since the latest lockdown some callers to SeniorLine, Ireland’s national telephone service for older people, have been worried about how to obtain food and other essential items. Many live alone, are in the vulnerable category and have been encouraged to leave home only for short exercise periods. Moira’s situation is similar to many callers: 'I am on my own. I would not be able to shop online. My neighbours are great but I couldn’t ask them to get all my groceries for me, so I was worried until I phoned SeniorLine', she said.

SeniorLine has the phone and contact details of each local authority, who coordinate the service provided by the Community Call Response Team volunteers in every Irish town. SeniorLine is able to remind callers of this service and explain to them how it works.

The Community Call, originally announced in April 2020, was an initiative linking local government with the community and voluntary sector. The focus was on mobilising a rapid response in every county to make sure everyone was looked after. Over the following weeks, the service demonstrated how communities looked after each other through the Covid-19 crisis. It worked extremely well and thousands of older people had cause to feel grateful to the generosity of others who shopped for them and delivered to their doors. The need for the scheme lessened when restrictions lifted during the summer and autumn. It has now been reactivated.

It works very simply. Each town has a Community Response Centre run in most cases by the local authority. People who wish to avail of the service need only phone the centre and give their details. They will then be contacted by a member of the response team who discover their shopping needs. The volunteers typically do not handle money, and the householder pays for their shopping directly by card with the supermarket. While some callers lament the loss of independence involved in having others shop for them, most are very appreciative of the service being offered and the protection it gives.

SeniorLine was open every day from 10am to 10pm over Christmas and the New Year. It has been a busy time. Damian Leneghan is SeniorLine Programme Manager: 'We have had a mix of regular and new callers. It is significant that most calls were longer than the norm. Very many callers have been living alone with nobody to talk to. Some had problems they needed to discuss. Others are very fearful of the future and the new viral strain. Some wanted to talk about the past. Each caller was given the time they needed. Our volunteers are trained to listen with empathy. Many callers said how helpful it was to share their thoughts and feelings and thanked us for being there', he said. 'We will continue to be available to older people during this current lockdown phase. If you are on your own, if you can no longer see your family or invite someone to your home, it is good to know that you can at least lift the phone for a friendly conversation, where you have complete autonomy and know that what you say will be treated in confidence', he said.

SeniorLine Freephone 1800 80 45 91, open 10am to 10pm daily.

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