Right from the beginning of lockdown we have been told that the older people living in our community are the most at risk from the Coronavirus. Age Concern Mallorca have been working hard to keep their clients safe and sound during the last couple of months so I took the opportunity to finally catch up with Jackie Codd, the president of the organisation and probably one of the busiest people I have the pleasure to know. I wasn’t too surprised when she started telling me what she had been up to over the last ten weeks…
How have you been Jackie? “Well, I didn’t realise quite how busy I had been until I got a call from the British Embassy asking me for an update on what we have been doing and I went and counted how many emails I have sent! Have a guess…” Err, a couple of hundred? “Well, I have answered over 1000 emails since March 14 and I have sent out 20 translated updated mail shots on the actual situation keeping the ex-pat community abreast with the changing COVID-19 situation!” Wow, I say, you have been busy. But that is the tip of the iceberg, because aside from acting as a hub for information and support Age Concern has also been able to facilitate shopping and medication trips for its clients due to being recognised as an “Entidad COVID 19” by the Balearic Government, something which has meant they have had the permission to travel to support vulnerable people. Plus they have also had new volunteers step forward to offer their services, which is fantastic to hear. “We have twenty new helpers on our books. I am not sure how many will still have time when the lockdown is over but it has been a great aid to us to have them onboard”.
How many older people are you helping at the moment? “We are dealing actively with around 50 cases at present. We are not carers, but if the people have needed paperwork or something organising, we have managed it. We’ve helped with the renewal of passports for example with an arrangement with a courier service door to door with Her Majesty’s Passport office so the person did not need to leave their house”. Keeping their volunteers and clients safe during this time has obviously been a great concern for Age Concern. “At the beginning we could not get masks for love nor money. But we did have some wonderful donations. Asociación Los Pioneros de Colores from Santa Margarita donated handmade masks to us. Distribucion Aguilar also donated gloves and gel to us, and a very kind yachtie, called Alex Marsh made us visors with a 3D printer!” Age Concern has also been working with the volunteers from the Cancer Support Group, sharing medical equipment and resources where they can. “We do have clients in common so we do our best to help each other,” said Jackie.
Age Concern launched in Spain in 1994 as the Federation of Associations of Age Concern España which was made up of affiliate member organisations from all over Spain. The Federation ceased to exist last year, but all the organisations continue to function independently. Jackie joined the organisation in 2000 and has dedicated the last two decades of her life to helping others.
Why does she do it? “It is satisfying to feel like you are helping. I was lucky that I had the time to put into it as I had been given early retirement and so I had the opportunity. I like mixing with people and helping them. I suppose it is just my inclination”. Age Concern supports English speaking older people (from 60 and above, although they have clients well into their 90s) who need assistance in Majorca. In particular they are well known for their hamper collection which happens every year for Christmas but support is needed year round. As dietary requirements have become more specific Age Concern now tries to custom buy the food needed for their elderly beneficiaries. “Most have dietary complications so it is easier for us to custom buy than bulk buy, also one’s needs are different from feeding a young family from those when one is of a certain age, also they could be diabetic so certain foods are not acceptable so we now find this much easier to organise. We still keep nonperishable items but we buy and deliver this eliminating the problem of having to find storage and also checking every single item which is donated to see if it is in date which was very time-consuming”.
Fundraising has been difficult for the organisation of course because there have been no events for them to attend (I personally love a jar of Age Concern lemon curd or jam when I get the chance to buy some at Europe Day and the other community events they attend). But thankfully a group of yachties got together who were on lockdown onboard and did a static bicycle ride of 1000km and raised 1256€! Well done to the Yokomo crew for that. And the Rotary Club of Calvia donated 1000€ to buy an orthopedic bed for a disabled client.
Aside from the physical needs of elderly people, there are also the legal and moral rights of our older citizens.
How does Jackie feel about what has been happening in care homes where there have been many cases of Coronavirus and subsequent deaths? “It is tragic what has been happening in places like Madrid where older people have been left to die. Heads should roll in my opinion. Someone should be answering for this.” Despite the lockdown now being eased Jackie is concerned that older people are still at great risk of contracting the virus. “Please continue to be vigilant, wear your mask, keep your distance. I would rather be cautious now than enjoy my freedom to be honest. Be safe now and sure later. Older people are still very vulnerable and we have to take care of them. Please think twice before putting others at risk.”
The effects of the virus will be around for a very long time, Jackie says. “I am currently helping a client who cannot afford to pay their rent because they have no money. Age Concern can support them with food, but this is just the beginning I fear, we will see more people who need our services”. Age Concern operates an assessment process to identify what and how they can help individuals in need so if you or someone you know should need their help you can contact them on the details at the bottom of the page. If anyone would like to help Age Concern then you can make a financial donation, or offer to volunteer and help with the various tasks that they perform. In addition to physical help with shopping, Age Concern is also called upon to help make medical appointments for clients, and help out with paperwork in Spanish, so anyone who is bilingual and has some time to help with these tasks would be very welcome as well.
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