Online ‘ZoomWags’ launched to help over-65s stay connected during coronavirus

Age UK Suffolk's Big Chinwag, as pictured here last year, becomes a ZoomWag for 2020 due to the coro

Age UK Suffolk's Big Chinwag, as pictured here last year, becomes a ZoomWag for 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Online “ZoomWags” are to be held by Age UK Suffolk to help older people stay connected during the Covid-19 crisis - amid concerns growing numbers of elderly people are being left isolated by the pandemic.

The charity, which campaigns for older people in the county, has organised its “Big Chinwag” for the past four years to help tackle loneliness in the county, where residents are urged to hold events in their homes, schools or workplaces where people can simply sit down and talk.

MORE: Age UK Suffolk launches ‘Big Chinwag’ campaign

Previously, the aim has been to help foster face-to-face conversation to help alleviate any feelings of loneliness, with events in Kesgrave, Needham Market, Woodbridge and Wickham Market.

However, the coronavirus crisis means the events will now move online and be named “ZoomWags”.

They will include many of same features of the Big Chinwag, including entertainment, activities such as quizzes and the opportunity for people to talk to one another.

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“The ZoomWag will mirror as closely as possible our usual Chinwag events,” said Age UK head of marketing and fundraising Jo Reeder.

“At this time, it’s so important that we all find different ways to try and connect people and, now that the shielding and social distancing rules have changed slightly, there may be family members who could help their family to access this through their own digital technology if the older person doesn’t have access.”

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There have long been fears loneliness is growing in the county, with an estimated 17,000 believed to class themselves as “often or always” lonely - which means they can go for days or weeks without human contact.

MORE: Why do 17,000 older people in Suffolk feel ‘always or often’ lonely?

However, Mrs Reeder said: “We can be reasonably confident that figure is going to be higher at this time,” because many elderly people have been forced to self-isolate and shield, cutting themselves off from friends and family.

The charity highlights that one in three over-65s and more than half of over-75s in Suffolk live alone, with many living in rural, isolated areas cut off from crucial services and contact with others.

The first ZoomWag takes place on Friday, June 19 at 2pm.

To sign up, click here.

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