For the first time in my life I am living alone. My husband died last year and although things have been made easier thanks to some bereavement counselling through the local hospice, the loneliness has certainly been reinforced by the pandemic.

However, as the lockdown continues, I have been astounded by the strength of our communities in what is one of the most densely populated boroughs in the country. As a Borough Councillor I’ve seen my workload increase, but we’ve also been supported by so many willing volunteers.

The words of one of my residents have stuck with me - “it’s nice to see young people looking after us oldies!” More than a thousand people have come forward to act as volunteers, whether it be accessing food, getting prescriptions, or simply a friendly and comforting voice on the end of a phone.

For the first time in my life I am living alone.

The Council was quick to act and within a couple of weeks had worked with local charities to set up a support mechanism for those who needed it – especially via foodbanks. Between all of the councillors, we rang thousands of pensioners to check that they had the support they needed, and if not, signposted them to those who could help. By no means do elected councillors have all the answers, but we usually know someone who does.

Facebook, although it has its faults, has been a real asset to us. Residents groups have been able to keep in touch with their members even if it is just to see how long the queue at Asda is on a specific day. The Mayor also holds a weekly Facebook Live session where residents can ask questions as well as promote local initiatives through the new “Watford Together” initiative.

For me, the new technology has enabled me to follow online workouts aided by a personal trainer and see what theatre productions are being streamed. I amazed myself by getting to terms with Zoom and 8 x 8 which has been used to enable virtual meetings of the council to happen, to say nothing of online sessions for my choir and my writing group. And then there was the opportunity to learn bread making thanks to FaceTime with a friend who gave me step by step instructions and I even went on a virtual tour of the zoo!

...locally, it has been incredible to see so many people pull together and press on.

Life has certainly had its sad moments though. It’s heart-breaking to hear of the death of four hospital staff locally and then to see a third of residents die at a local care home, in part, I would say, because of the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A lot seems to have gone wrong at a national level but locally, it has been incredible to see so many people pull together and press on.

Independent Age signed a joint letter alongside other large charities calling for more PPE to be provided to people working in the social care system. We’re also calling on the Government to ensure PPE is available for people to say goodbye to their loved ones in care homes when they are near the end of their life, to better support the grieving process.

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