Thousands of older people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 infection. 

Covid-19 has turned our worlds upside down. Even two months ago, we could barely have imagined what was ahead of us. 

Staywell was quick to react to the developing situation in mid-March, and we closed our two day centres, Raleigh House in New Malden, and The Bradbury in Kingston. 

We recognised that we could have been putting our day centre members at risk by bringing them into a social setting. This was not an easy decision as we know how much these services mean to the people who use them.

Older people were the first to be instructed to limit face-to-face interactions with individuals outside their immediate household to protect themselves from Coronavirus. Unable to take part in their usual social activities, including visits to centres like Raleigh House and The Bradbury, which are so vital to their wellbeing, COVID-19 has also forced many family members to end visits to parents and grandparents. 

The enforced lockdown and physical distancing is an essential step in reducing transmission of the virus. But in an attempt to 'flatten the curve', physical distancing is exacerbating social isolation and loneliness amongst older people, and causing worry and distress to separated family members. More than this, many people rely on help in the home for their day-to-day safety and wellbeing. 

For example, the national scheme to deliver food parcels to those who are ‘shielding’ is, of course, welcome. However, we know that many of our clients would be unable to lift a food parcel from a doorstep, pack away the contents safely or be able to make themselves a meal. 

Under normal circumstances, we are in contact with around 800 people on a weekly basis. With our day centres closed, and home visits by necessity being reduced, within two days we turned our operations around, and redeployed our staff into teams supporting people in the community with shopping, collecting prescriptions and offering practical help. We also began calling our usual day centre and Help at Home clients to make sure they were safe and welland that they had the support they needed to stay safely at home. 

Since 1st April we have been part of the Covid-19 Hospital Discharge Programme, working in partnership with Kingston Hospital, Primary Care, Kingston Council Adult Social Care and community health provider, Your Healthcare. This involves providing support between the hours of 8am - 8pm, seven days a week. We are providing help and practical support, such as fitting a key safe; moving furniture, e.g. beds from upstairs to downstairs; providing food and essential supplies, and following up with wellbeing checks. Our furniture recycling scheme, Kingston Community Furniture is also part of this process. We’re also continuing to work with Kingston's wider voluntary sector and community partners. 

Covid-19 is having an unequalled impact. It is a fact that the over-80s are at the highest risk during this crisis, death rates prove this. However, not only is the Covid crisis having a huge impact on our user group is it also having major effect on Staywell as a local charity. 

The loss of income resulting from necessarily closing our building-based services is around £7,000 per week, income which is vital to sustain us as a charity. The very vulnerable nature of the group we work with means it is unlikely we will be able to open our day centres for the foreseeable future. Overall, the Covid-19 crisis is impacting on Staywell harder than on many other organisations.

As we enter the sixth week of lockdown there is no end in sight to physical distancing for older peoplewhich means that the impact on Staywell, and the people we serve, will continue for many months to come. 

With that in mind we are appealing to the community to consider making a donation to support us. The money raised will help ensure that Staywell, and the work we do continues, long into the future. 

Staywell is an organisation whose roots date back to the post-war period, almost 75 years ago. It was founded by local people, who saw a need in their local community, and resolved to do something about it. In these very strange times, when many of us are re-evaluating what is important in our lives, we appeal to you to give your support locally, get involved: be with us as we adapt to meet the challenges of the pandemic, and stay with us as we move forwards and work out how we meet the challenges ahead.