Despite lockdown the organisation has had over 1,000 interactions with those they support.
Cyrenians OPAL (Older People, Active Lives) aims to maintain or increase independence and well-being among those age 60+ across the West Lothian area. We do this through one-to-one support, social, activity and learning groups. We are funded through a collaboration with West Lothian Council, West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, and NHS Lothian. The service is delivered by a team of dedicated, trained volunteers who offer encouragement, companionship and support to help engage in social, leisure and community activities. All are PVG checked by Volunteer Scotland.
The One-to-One service matches older people with a volunteer to allow them to share experiences and reconnect with their community. This may be through home visits, telephone conversation, outings such as going for coffee, walks or attending local community groups. They can either self-refer or be referred by a health professional. Last year OPAL helped 142 people overcome struggles with bereavement, recent illness, low mood, early-stage dementia, carer respite and many other obstacles.
OPAL operates 13-14 groups throughout West Lothian which are open to anyone age 60+. These groups allow people to come together, meet new friends, try new things, but most of all have fun. Attendees are encouraged to make decisions about their own activity plans. Typical activities are entertainers, exercise, quizzes, games, crafts, speakers etc. In certain circumstances we can offer a driver service to take people with limited mobility to groups.
Last year 481 individuals were provided one-to-one support or attended one of the groups. New friendships were formed, people reconnected with their community and lots of fun was had.
On the 16th March we postponed all services other than telephone support until further notice. We quickly got to work adapting current activities and putting a new plan in place to support older people during the pandemic and this continues to operate for the time-being. Since lockdown we have had more than 1000 different interactions with people through telephone/video calls, dropping off essentials, dog walking, delivering audiobooks, CD’s, jigsaws, DVD’s & digital devices. In addition, we have had telephone singalongs, virtual coffee mornings and our new group the OPAL Zoom Room is now running weekly.
We set up Blether Buddies where we match like-minded clients for telephone chat and Mail Mates which is similar but they write or email each other. This has been particularly beneficial to those who are hard of hearing but missing contact with others.
Despite the difficulties, there have been many special moments during the last couple of months but what has really stood out for us is the difference that seeing someone in person makes. Video calls and connecting friends together online has made a huge impact. Last week we had a guest singer performing “That’s Amore” and one of our couples got up to dance in their living room whilst the rest of the group sang along.
On the 8th May, our Groups Support Assistant Sandy called 75 people and sang wartime medleys down the phone with them to commemorate 75 years since VE day.
The OPAL service, more than ever, is a life-line to so many who would have very little contact with the outside world if we were not in place. We are now looking to the future when we will re-adapt the service once more to provide support to get people back out and about, re-connected to their communities, meeting their friends, learning new skills and having fun.