Sign up for Cold Weather Friends and join Norwich Evening News and Age UK in helping the elderly

Our pioneering project could aid 8,000 older people in Norwich. Sign up to help!

Our pioneering project could aid 8,000 older people in Norwich. Sign up to help! - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A chill in the air? Get on the phone now. The Norwich Evening News is teaming up with Age UK Norwich and several other community groups in a pioneering project to keep older people safe and well in icy weather.

Now is the time to sign up for Cold Weather Friends – before you need it. An estimated 8,000 older people in Norwich live alone and more than half of them are affected by a long-term health problem.

Those who don't already have a family, friend or care service to call on are being offered the chance to register with Age UK Norwich – an independent, city-based charity – so that if we're hit with 'Met Office Level Three' conditions (heavy snow and/or widespread ice) over the winter, a volunteer will phone, to make sure they have everything they need.

If necessary, the volunteer will bring the supplies they are short of.

In a unique collaboration, other local employers including Gasway along with Evening News staff, and Voluntary Norfolk, the popular voluntary sector umbrella group – are linking up to provide helpers.

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If you or your company are able to offer extra volunteers, Age UK Norwich would be delighted to hear from you.

All we ask is that they each provide two references, for the protection of our clients.

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Evening News editor-in-chief Nigel Pickover said: 'As a community newspaper actively involved in a range of campaigns to make people's lives better, and celebrate initiatives which bring people together, this is right up our street… and it could be right up your street.

'We all know how difficult it can be to get about, once the paths are icy, and older folk can easily be completely cut off, especially if they're less confident on their feet.

'We at the Evening News wouldn't want our own mums and dads to be left short of food supplies, medicines or emergency help, and we don't want other people's mums and dads to be, either, so make the call now and get onto the list.'

The register of older people interested in the service will be kept by Age UK Norwich.

Met Office Level 3 conditions mean temperatures have fallen to below 2 degrees Celsius for 48 hours or longer, or there is heavy snow and/or widespread ice. In those circumstances, the list would be activated and those registered would be called by a volunteer, to make sure they're OK.

Phil Wells, chief executive of Age UK, said: 'Our charity is always exploring new ways to improve life for the elderly – be it through clubs, regular befriending or information and advice. This is very much an extension of that approach. It's a first, this year, and we want to see what the need is. If it works, this may well become a regular annual service in the city area, which we cover.

'Nobody should hesitate to register. Older people are often proud to be independent, and we encourage that. Our charity is there to help people stay as independent as possible, whatever their personal challenges. But staying independent successfully very often means knowing when to ask for a little bit of help.'

The number to call to register for help from the Age UK Norwich/ Voluntary Norfolk Cold Weather Friends scheme is 01603 496333. Do it now... before the weather gets bad.

• You can also call that number to volunteer, or to learn more about the many opportunities Age UK Norwich is offering for older people to get together during the winter months.

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