Information campaign to help older people keep well this winter

A coalition of public service organisations- including the University of Manchester, charities and older people’s groups is this week launching a new information campaign to support older people to keep well this winter.

The ‘Keeping Well This Winter’ booklet contains tips and advice on keeping physically well and maintaining good mental health, and is being provided to tens of thousands of older people across Greater Manchester.

It is aimed particularly at reaching people who are not online and it follows the success of a similar publication during the first wave of Covid-19, which was praised by the World Health Organization for keeping residents informed at a time of over-reliance on digital communications.

The project is taking place because older people are predicted to face a particularly tough winter because of the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions on physical and mental health.

An estimated 155,000 over 65s in Greater Manchester do not use the internet and are therefore excluded from getting health and wellbeing advice online, as well as not having online social contact with friends and family.

The campaign has been coordinated by Greater Manchester Combined Authority, working with Greater Manchester’s councils, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the University of Manchester, housing providers, local charities and older people’s groups.

They are together distributing 140,000 copies of the booklet to the homes of older people and, in many cases, following up with phone calls or personal visits.

The information campaign includes a film of older people who suggest key questions that will open a positive conversation between front line staff or volunteers when talking on the doorstep or making phone calls.

The earlier booklet – distributed at the height of lockdown restrictions in May – was this month (November) highlighted as an example of good practice in the response to Covid-19 by the World Health Organization

An evaluation led by the University of Manchester with people who received it showed that 92% of people found the information helpful and 90% said it had helped them to stay healthy. Half had no access to the internet and even among those who did, 83% still preferred to receive paper-based information.

The booklet has also been adapted and republished in nine UK local areas and abroad as far as Australia and Canada.

Additional information requested by older people has been included in the new publication. It includes:

  • how to stay safe from Covid-19
  • getting a flu vaccination
  • a series of strength and balance exercises to do at home
  • how to maintain a healthy mind
  • healthy eating
  • fire safety at home
  • how to apply for pension credit
  • how to avoid scams

The film uses members of the Talking About My Generation older people’s group to provide a series of tips on the best ways to have a chat about how to keep well this winter.

Feedback from support groups for people with health conditions such as dementia has also led to additional content being included.

The booklet will be taken to older people through:

  • community hubs, which have been run with the help of volunteers by councils to provide food, medicines and phone support to people who cannot leave home
  • volunteers from Age UK and other community organisations
  • housing providers’ front line staff in their contact with older residents
  • libraries, as part of click and collect services
  • supermarkets
  • social workers and NHS workers, as part of their work in preventing hospital admission, or supporting discharge from hospital
  • doorstep Covid-19 testing
  • Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s “safe and well” contacts

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Greater Manchester lead for age-friendly and equalities, said: “This booklet gives positive and practical advice on keeping well this winter

“It’s also great that older people have themselves supported this publication by making a film and giving their views on what is useful information.

“Of course the internet is vital in providing health information, but we want to ensure that everyone can get good advice, even if they don’t have the internet.

“Many organisations and volunteers are working together here to reach out to older people so we can all look after ourselves, our family and friends to keep well this winter.”

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Circle, which supports older people through activities, events and a volunteer driver service, is to send copies of the booklet to its 920 members and contacts and then follow up with a phone call to them all.

Its director Mark Wynn said: “We obviously had to suspend our face to face activities in the spring, but our drivers instead delivered medicines and food to support our members.

“Our volunteers also helped with the delivery of the first booklet and we found people really took notice of it and remembered the advice it gave.

“We find that when we send our regular update letter or other communication that our members value it more, even if they have the internet. It is more tangible and therefore more effective.

“Our volunteers will be calling everyone we have contact with and using this new booklet as a conversation starter, to see how they are and what else they need.”

Jean Friend, aged 67, from Chadderton, is one of the Talking About My Generation members who appears in the film.

Jean Friend said: “It is important to keep checking up on our neighbours and having a chat. We know that lots of people and organisations want to help and we want to help them to do this in the best way possible through this film.

“People are often quite proud and don’t like to admit they could do with some help, so it’s important to keep chivvying them along so you can find out how they really are. It is going to be a difficult winter, but we can help each other through it.”