Winter is upon us, which for many is a time for getting cosy and preparing for the long awaited festive season. However, for many older people, winter can be a time of isolation, depression and increased health problems.
In response, Gateway Housing Association in Tower Hamlets has launched the third year of its ‘Winter Warmers’ initiative. This programme aims to fight poverty and social isolation that elderly people experience during winter, when many suffer alone and are at increased risk of both mental and physical issues.
This housing association provides affordable sheltered housing to migrant communities and has around 317 residents that are 70 years old and above. Mo Ali, head of community investment, explained the initiative: ‘We carry out observations and check that the home is winter ready.’ Members of staff visit residents to ensure that their warmth, safety and wellbeing is up to standard, checking that all windows, doors and radiators are winter ready. ‘Winter Warmers volunteers visit six to eight residents in a day and where areas of concern are identified, the volunteers will discuss options for support with the residents and the Community Investment Team will ensure the appropriate referrals are made,’ said Mr Ali.
Councillor Amy Whitlock, at the launch event, said, ‘It is so important that people who may lack other support have someone going in to check on them. Being able to notice signs, such as neglect, and signposting them to social care is one of the key reasons why Winter Warmers is so important.’
Research carried out from last year’s programme found that more than one in five residents who were visited did not feel as though they had enough money for bills, food or to pay their rent. Furthermore, analysis of the 2015 Indices of Deprivation shows that though Tower Hamlets has become less deprived, the borough still has the highest rates of poverty for pensioners in England, with many older people reporting a lack of support. The Winter Warmers initiative has made a difference. A Gateway resident said, ‘you feel at last that somebody is listening and taking an interest.’ Not only has the initiative helped pensioners with their housing and financial situations, it has also made the residents feel less isolated and that if they need any guidance, help is available to them.
For more information on the initiative, please visit Gateway Housing’s website here