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A message from Steph Harland, CEO Age UK

Steph Harland

A message from Steph Harland

Age UK's CEO explains how the charity is responding to the coronavirus pandemic.



We are facing unprecedented times. Evidence from around the world shows clearly that it is older people, especially from the age of 70 upwards, who are most likely to become very seriously ill and even die if they contract the coronavirus.

This is why the Government advice is that people in this age group, as well as those who have not yet reached this age but who have underlying health conditions, need to be extremely cautious and stay at home from now on, for a period of time which is as yet unclear but which is likely to stretch into many months.

Some older people are fortunate and have family and friends to help, and there is no doubt that many communities are rising to the challenge and rallying round to offer support: and at Age UK we’ve seen immense generosity and kindness from individuals and organisations who have contacted us wanting to help. But our biggest worry is for those millions of older people who are on their own: who do not have family and friends nearby or at all. 

In these incredibly difficult circumstances older people will be in dire need of friendly and reliable practical support, information and advice, and friendship – which it may not be possible to offer face to face any more but which are still accessible, and all the more precious, via the telephone and for those who are hard of hearing, the post.

Meanwhile, local Age UKs up and down the country are racing to put the systems and processes in place with other local partners to be able to provide practical and emotional support to their older populations in the weeks and months to come. They are on the frontline of helping older people to pull through this incredibly difficult time and they know that as time goes on the numbers who will be crying out for their support are certain to rise.

This week we launched a bold new £10 million emergency appeal in the UK and another internationally to help ensure that we and our national, local and international partners can continue to provide vital support in the toughest of times. We are focusing own efforts on our Advice Line and the Silver Line Helpline as we’ve already seen calls increase by 40% and think that telephone support will become ever more critical for older people who are likely to need to stay at home. We equally believe that the community services provided by local Age UKs will never be so important.

We’re also encouraging everyone who can to be a good neighbour to those around them by providing simple, immediate assistance for older people who are staying at home due to the coronavirus outbreak. Communities up and down the country are responding with all sorts of different initiatives and acts of kindness and for those looking for a way to get involved, Age UK has more information here

Before this crisis began, we were already very concerned about the large numbers of older people who were disadvantaged and isolated. The reality is we’re not at the toughest point of this crisis yet, and it’s difficult to predict what that will mean for us as individuals, our charity, and the older people who rely on us and our partners across the country. What we know with certainty is it will get far more difficult than it is today and older people’s needs will sky-rocket.

I am determined that we will be there for them during this crisis.

Age UK's coronavirus information hub

Information on coronavirus, including updates on how you can look after yourself and loved ones, comments from Age UK, and ways you can support older people.

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Last updated: Nov 23 2023

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