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An interview with ElWell founder Jess Silver

ElWell Co Founders Jessica Silver and Nancy Farmer Talk About Elderly Wellbeing

ElWell is an Oxfordshire-based organisation dedicated to helping older people stay independent and connected to the local community. As winter approaches, some older people find themselves more at risk of isolation and ill health as the cold weather makes it more difficult to get out and about. ElWell are therefore offering a series of free talks over the next few weeks (starting this Thursday, 7th November) for older people and their loved ones to learn about a variety of ways they can take better care of themselves. We caught up with ElWell co-founder Jess Silver to find out more.

Daily Info team: When and why was ElWell founded?

Jess Silver: ElWell is a local company that helps older people to stay independent and improve their wellbeing. We know that as you get older, your needs change and you’re not always sure where to get the answers to your questions, which can be worrying. So we started ElWell to help people through this. We make home visits and can help with a range of concerns - this could be helping you stay fitter and more stable, adapting your home, finding volunteering opportunities or even attending a group with you until you feel confident to go alone.

DI: What are your favourite places in Oxfordshire where older people can get out and about? Are there any particularly good groups or activities around the county that you think more people should know about?

JS: As you get older it’s important to stay active, and there's so much going on in Oxfordshire. My top tip would be the Oxfordshire Bowls Club which is always buzzing and everyone is really friendly. But the most important thing is to choose something that matches what you’re interested in. If you like cards, find a group near you that plays. If you want gentle walks, try one of the free health walks which runs every week. And if you do go alone, you don’t have to be scared - everyone is always so welcoming.

DI: Is there as much of a divide between generations as is sometimes portrayed in the media? How can younger people best help and reach out to older people?

JS: You only have to look at OxSnow, which was set up by a Brookes student to help older people during the winter last year, to see the good that is out there. More and more older people are feeling isolated, and it’s up to us to help with this. 1 in 5 never speak to their neighbours, and 1 in 20 say that the highlight of their day is someone saying good morning. It takes no time to do this, and will make both of you feel good!

DI: Is Oxfordshire a good place to retire and avoid isolation? What needs to change to make Oxfordshire more pleasant for older people?

JS: Oxfordshire is a fantastic place to retire, but unfortunately isolation is all around us. We’re building new homes, and forgetting about the community centre or the shop - places that people used to gravitate towards, and which gave a sense of community. We all need to be more friendly with our neighbours, and look out for one another.

DI: Why can winter be a particularly difficult time for older people? How will your free workshops equip people to maintain their wellbeing throughout the season?

JS: It’s so important to check on loved ones during winter. When it’s colder, older people are less likely to leave the house. Not only can this lead to them feeling lonely, but sitting down for extended periods can affect your muscle strength and balance, and they can become scared of falling over when they do go out. Falls prevention is the first topic we cover in our free talks (November 7th, 6pm). We’re also running a talk on staying independent in your own home (November 21st, 6pm) and one on communication and dementia (December 5th, 2pm). They’re all at St Andrew’s Church, Linton Road (North Oxford) and are free. More info on the ElWell website.

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