Life in lockdown: “Social distancing has brought us closer together”

At a time when we are keeping apart, social distancing has been bringing communities together in surprising ways. In neighbourhoods everywhere, people are supporting vulnerable neighbours and keeping in touch with those in self-isolation.  

Ken moved to a retirement living community near Wolverhampton around two years ago. Ken says he tends to keep himself to himself and until recently, he was on polite nodding terms with his neighbours. 

That changed in March, when the country went into lockdown. 

“I’m younger than most of those living here and although I have several medical conditions, I’m mobile and not in a group advised to shield. I quickly realised that I was in a position to help people who were finding it difficult to get essential supplies,” he explains. 

Ken offered to shop for his neighbours and received guidance and support from Sarah Wilson, volunteer and engagement coordinator at Care Plus. Since then, he has been providing a daily delivery service that outshines some of the big supermarkets. 

“People let me have their orders today, for delivery tomorrow. I’m shopping for up to twelve people each day, so it is all about having a system. When all this started, I got hold of some re-sealable plastic bags. Everyone puts their shopping list into their bag, and I go off to the local Co-op.  

“I bring everything back in a trolley and then do my delivery round.  

As Ken made his daily deliveries, he realised he could help in other ways, too. From changing timepieces when the clocks went forward and collecting the recycling each week, to obtaining new batteries for hearing aids he’s happy to lend a hand, always being careful to observe social distancing. 

“One lady has a dog and normally her daughter exercises it. When her daughter wasn’t able to visit, she asked if I would be able to take it for walks. She warned me that it has always been nervous around men but now she jokes that the dog likes me best!” 

In his community Ken has become more than a good neighbour. He’s a lifeline in uncertain times.  

“It’s strange, really, because social distancing has brought us closer together. We know each other so much better now and those daily chats help me, too. It can be frightening for the elderly when they are listening to the news, especially when they live on their own. Talking to them daily, reassures them. I’m getting plenty of exercise, improving my mental health and doing something useful. Best of all, I’ve made a totally unexpected group of friends.” 

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