Everybody needs good neighboursHerakles Koumoullos from The Good Neighbour Scheme for Mill Hill and Burnt Oak is working hard to connect the generations and tackle loneliness.
‘I don’t like the word elderly because it puts them in a pigeonhole’, a colleague once said to me, ‘they are like the rest of us but with a few more yesterdays to look back on.’ I understood what she meant. Being defined as part of a group can easily take away some of one’s individuality.
Still, many older people do face a number of common problems, in particular, isolation, loneliness and a variety of health issues. The people who had the foresight to set up the Good Neighbour Scheme in Mill Hill a generation ago decided that our community could take the lead in addressing these issues. Originally run from a single desk with a telephone, the scheme’s founders quickly discovered they were offering a service that was much in demand.
Over the last 30 years, the GNS has expanded its operations to include Burnt Oak and is now a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. We have a small team of part-time staff, as well as a group of 70 local volunteers - without whom we couldn’t function.
Our primary concern is still the isolation affecting older people and much of our work is aimed at alleviating this problem and integrating them back into their community. Isolation is usually not out of choice but a direct result of factors such as bereavement and separation from families and friends. It can lead to new problems, such as depression and can easily turn into a vicious circle.
Our aim is to assist senior citizens to live as independent and fulfilling lives as possible in their own homes. We’ve tackled isolation by running regular social events: our most popular events are our two weekly lunch clubs which attract between 30 and 35 senior citizens for each event. Transport is available by minibus or car for those who have difficulty making their own way. Additionally, we organize bingo and coffee afternoons as well as outings throughout the year.
Other important services include: a weekly shopping trip on a minibus, our popular chiropody clinics, befriending, help with form filling and also signposting to other services. We pride ourselves on our work in the community and currently, our volunteers have been marshalling at a local vaccination hub.
This last year has brought its own unique challenges with the lockdowns forcing us to abandon our usual services. Instead, we have concentrated on supporting our senior citizens stuck at home with an extended befriending service and doing the weekly shopping if required. It is gratifying to say that all parts of our community pulled together and we have signed up many new volunteers.
If anyone needs advice about a relative or friend or indeed is interested in volunteering for a few hours a month there are a number of ways you can contact us:
Office telephone: 020 8906 3340, the office is open weekdays, 0900 – 1300 or leave a message on our 24-hour voice mail.
Our email is [email protected]
Visit our website