Note: This review covers our Elders programme up to the end-March 2021.
“I think you are all doing a marvelous job. I would go to KLS everyday if I could. I recommend you to everyone. I tell the doctors and specialists.”
Katherine Low Settlement’s work with elders
As always, we are driven by the difference we make to the lives of our elders. Our service always strives to:
- Encourage active and independent living.
- Reduce isolation and loneliness.
- Improve wellbeing and prevent ill-health.
- Enable older residents to become dynamic and contributing members of the Wandsworth community.
We provided support throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic
2020/21 was a difficult time for local older people, as it was for us all. 54% of our members told us in a survey in March 2021 they had no one but KLS to support them. Our Elders Service strived to give much needed support, in new ways, during this difficult Covid period.
We run 21 different activities each week for 230+ older people including Lunch Clubs, chair-based exercise classes, T’ai Chi, Dance for Life, a film club, and more. We’ve run these ‘virtually’ over the last year, and are now trying to re-establish our face-to-face support as lockdown restrictions ease.
“If I didn’t have KLS I wouldn’t have made it through lockdown I would have gone mad.”
We did lots of careful planning throughout the pandemic. This was key to support people through the various stages of the crisis. It meant we could offer support virtually (via telephone and online), with door step visits, host outings and trips, and meet in public places or in the centre. We followed government guidelines; used the ‘my loved one’ measure; completed individual and groups risk assessments for members, volunteers and staff, as well as transport; and used small bubble groups to bring people together, such as our Tea & Chat bubbles.
“I belong to other groups but KLS is the best. Who really cared and supported me throughout the lockdown.”
We created a Fone Friends befriending service to support people through the pandemic. Volunteers and staff made 5,928 befriending calls to our elders (March’20-March’21). With some more vulnerable members getting daily calls including over weekends and on Christmas day. This emotional support was crucial, as so many were scared, lonely, anxious and stressed.
“The help from KLS kept me going during lockdown. At times I thought I was going to die.”
Many elders received 1-2-1 support, including advice and casework support. We addressed specific issues that our elders were facing by advocating on their behalf or connecting them with the Wandsworth Community Hub, Social Services, Age UK Wandsworth, Citizens Advice, mutual aid groups, Foodbank, mental health community support etc. for changes in their care packages and financial issues, for example. One member was supported to have their bedroom moved into the living room when she could no longer manage the stairs.
“I love the calls from KLS they brighten my day.”
We supported members to get food parcels, clothes and medicines. We worked with local food groups like Kambala Cares and Waste Not Want Not Battersea to provide hot meals; and Age UK Wandsworth and the local Foodbank with food parcels; as well as brilliant support from the Battersea Coronavirus Angels, whom we helped set up and trained. We provided mental health support when they were struggling and helped with serious safeguarding needs. We also encouraged Peer Support groups, where members swapped telephone numbers and called each other.
“Being at home is very lonely. I miss my friends at the lunch Club.”
The team supported elders to maintain their physical health, mobility, balance and fitness. Though, as our Annual Impact Survey shows, their physical health has significantly deteriorated (see results below). We hosted exercises sessions via Zoom. We ran YouTube sessions created by our exercise tutors. We also produced our very own exercise DVD (take that Jane Fonda) and shared this widely with our members to use at home. We also developed our own Parkinson’s Dance DVD. Tutors called members when classes were not running to offer encouragement. When lockdown ended, we ran exercise classes in Fred Wells Gardens; and we offered a number of community walks in Battersea Park, including a well-attended men’s walk.
“I appreciated the DVD for my exercise at home and the phone calls to find out whether I was keeping well.”
We posted 100s of activity packs and gifts, especially to our most isolated members, to keep them mentally engaged and busy, with new hobbies include art packs, books, CDs and puzzles. We ensured members got handmade cards and Christmas gifts with the support of our partners Frances Holland school, Thomas’s school and Dorrington plc.
“Sarah sent me one of the Exercise DVDs which was very useful. Dawn used to send me emails when I missed her phone calls. Kerry did a lot of Zoom activities with us. I am very appreciative of all the team. Thank you very much. I am highly impressed and greatly appreciate you all.”
At the request of our member’s we set up a number of new activities including a new Film Club, Age Well’s Zoom Exercise classes, Writerz and Scribez intergenerational work, National Trust online art sessions and Talk Wandsworth online wellbeing sessions.
“The people I relied on are angels. You don’t expect it.”
Early on in the crisis we realised that many of our older members were not online. They did not have the devices, data, money or skills to get online. They were digitally excluded. To address this, we did a number of things. We piloted ‘Tech Up Battersea’ – a new programme to support elders get online. We taught elders how to use digital technology.
We loaned tech during periods of lockdown to reduce their isolation. Digital Champion Volunteers offered 1-2-1 support on the door step. 20 Amazon Fire Tablets were set up for the service, that are now installed with the necessary apps including Zoom groups and with individual email accounts.
Our new Age Well service ran ‘12 Zooms Over Christmas’ as part of Battersea Zoomers. This was a varied programme of zoom sessions tailored to meet the social needs of elders at home. The programme was set up to get isolated and vulnerable older people equipped and trained on Zoom in time for Christmas. This was so successful that it still continues and has a regular weekly programme of Zoom activities.
“I cry when I can’t be at KLS. KLS is the only people I trust.”
Feedback from our members is vital
Our members are always talking to us, giving us constant feedback – letting us know what they want, what they like and what they don’t enjoy. Once a year we conduct a formal Annual Impact Survey. This year we found members were feeling less positive and socially engaged when compared with the previous year.
- 89% said they feel better within myself (down from 98% last year).
- 89% said they enjoyed the social interaction at KLS (down from 94% in 2019/20).
- 89% are participating in activities they enjoy (down from 99%).
- 69% felt more in control of their daily life (down from 88%); 23% felt they had much less control of their daily life.
- 26% felt their social network had decreased versus 64% who felt they had a wider network (down from 90% in the previous year).
- 90% felt less isolated (which was the same as the year before)
- 89% said they felt more confident (the same as last year).
Members also reported that their fitness and exercise had deteriorated significantly:
|My level of physically activity have improved
|My levels of fitness have improved
|My balance has improved
|My flexibility has improved
|My overall strength has improved
35% increased (this was 95% last year)
|38% got worse
29% improved (was 95% the year before)
|41% got worse
38% improved (was 79% the year before)
36% got much worse
15% got better (was 84% the year before)
|36% got worse
26% got better
38% improved (was 84% the year before)
Plans for next year
“KLS have been wonderful. You have all done so much for me. I’d be lost without you all.”
Our services are busy, sometimes ‘bulging at the seams’. Our plans for the year ahead focus on reconnecting with our members and supporting their recovery from the effects of the pandemic and lockdowns. Everyone has told us they need a period of recovery, healing and commemoration for those we’ve lost. As well as celebration and the joy of being back together again.
Our members have become less mobile, increasingly frail and experience greater memory difficulties. Most have deteriorated mentally. They’ve been stressed, worried and lost a lot of confidence. They require a lot of additional support from us. Every member has had a risk assessment. These are continuously reviewed, and an action plan agreed with each of them and their families/carers.
Added to this is the reality that we are filling the gaps in the social care system. This all puts pressure on staff and volunteers alike. We are mindful of the care and support we give to the team as we do not want a reduction in the quality of our services or burn out.
The Covid-19 lockdown has meant a radical rethink of how we work – moving overnight to online platforms for exercise classes, meetings and creating our ‘Fone Friends’ service: a telephone befriending service for our elders. Our service will continue to evolve as we work out the best ways of blending online and in-person support.
We have a detailed timetable in place, including risk assessments. We will continue to follow government guidance, follow social distancing, masks, extra cleaning etc., draw upon our team’s extensive experience and expertise, review our approach/work in team meetings, and use our common sense and good humour to inform our decision making, plans and Elder’s community services.
“I am more than happy. KLS gave me my confidence back. My doctor advised me to come down.”
Get in touch
Sarah Goodall 020 7223 2845
Head of Elders Team [email protected]
Katherine Low Settlement www.klsettlement.org.uk/60-plus
“The staff are really nice and so are the members – very caring.”