Age UK: I love being a Cold Weather Friend

Age UK Norwich's Cold Weather Friends campaign volunteer Hazel Medler.Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Age UK Norwich's Cold Weather Friends campaign volunteer Hazel Medler.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

As Age UK Norwich links up with other charities and businesses in a pioneering scheme to look after older people in icy weather, today we talk to a volunteer who is ready to help.

Hazel Medler, from the north of the city, said: 'This just makes so much sense. I really hope it gets lots of support.'

The Norwich Evening News is backing Cold Weather Friends – a first-time project in which Age UK Norwich – a city-based, independent charity – and Voluntary Norfolk are calling on older people to register for the emergency help. The number to call is 01603 496333.

People will be matched with volunteers like Hazel if 'Met Office Level Three' conditions (heavy snow and/or widespread ice) crop up.

The scheme is for older people in the city area who haven't got a friend, family member or existing care service to help them out.

Hazel said: 'Because I'm involved with Age UK, I saw a message about this scheme – and immediately wanted to help. It's very much an extension of what we already do.

'Personally, I am fit and able to walk but I know that when the pavements are icy, it's the worst time. And you have to ask – would you want people 10 or 20 years older than me, who may not be that steady on their feet, going out? If somebody in that age group has a fall, they can easily end up in hospital.'

Most Read

Hazel, as one of Age UK Norwich's befrienders, regularly takes two older people out on shopping trips.

'I enjoy meeting them,' she said. 'So there's something in it for me, too. In this case, the plan is that we'd phone the older person if the weather became bad, check they are alright, and if necessary take round food or vital medicines... and make sure they were warm. It's quite simple.'

Guidance will be given to volunteers, with less experience, and they should call the same phone number.

Phil Wells, Age UK Norwich chief executive, said: 'It's one of those situations where giving an hour of your time can make a huge difference to someone else in the community.'

New volunteers – not known to the charities involved – are asked to provide two references, for the protection of the clients.

Evening News editor Nigel Pickover said: 'We don't know when we'll be hit by freezing weather. So let's be prepared.

'If you're aware of someone who could benefit, make sure they've got the phone number... and make sure they call to register before they need it. That's the key.'

An estimated 8,000 older people live alone in Norwich and more than half of them are affected by long-term health problems.