Watch: ‘Adopt a grandparent’ scheme goes virtual to help with coronavirus loneliness

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A scheme to tackle loneliness among elderly care home residents has gone viral amid the coronavirus lockdown, with thousands of virtual volunteers signing up to ‘adopt’ a grandparent.

Originally a face-to-face scheme, the ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ scheme was relaunched last month after the coronavirus restrictions meant care home residents were not allowed visitors.

“In the advent of COVID-19 we decided that we really wanted to continue to support isolation and loneliness amongst our residents, very much a thing of importance at the moment where we’ve had to restrict visitors to our homes and so about two weeks ago we took the campaign digital and now we have people registering to virtually adopt a grandparent all over the world,” Shaleeza Hasham, a director at CHD Living and creator of the scheme, told Reuters.

CHD Living said they were overwhelmed that more than 62,000 people have registered to volunteer within days of the launch.

“All over the world, different countries, America, Canada, Dubai, Greece. People giving up their time. This is not age-restricted either, our youngest volunteer is about a year old and our oldest around 75 years old,” Hasham said.

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Among the volunteers is 5-year-old Freya from Gloucestershire who has been teamed up with 74-year-old Sheila Warfield, a resident at Brownscombe House in Surrey, south of London.

“This has cut me off from everything this virus because I’ve got two little nieces who live in Haslemere and they used to come regularly to see me but they can’t come now you see, so I don’t see any children, let alone grown-ups,” Sheila said after a video call with Freya.

The more than 30 residents at Brownscombe House now have access to a Facebook Portal device as do the other 12 care homes the group runs in the south of England.

“A lot of the people who have been registering recently are talking about that the fact that they want to give something back, that they might have lost their own grandparents, or indeed parents, or never had grandparents and that this is a way for them to spend quality time and learn from a different generation and share in ideas and games and very much support during this really difficult time,” Hasham said.

Another volunteer was looking for a way to help after putting her business on hold for the lockdown.

“I just thought it was a genius, amazing idea to help people not feel so lonely and to keep them company during this time when everyone should really stay out and not really leave home and I think it goes both ways, keeping them company as well as keeping you company and it just lifts everyone’s spirits and it’s a healthy and safe to be able to bond and communicate with people who might not have another outlet,” Michelle Husserl, founder of Mychelle’s Baketique told Reuters via a video call.

Hasham added they are now considering how to share their volunteers with partner organizations looking for will helpers.

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