Community aid groups helping the elderly to survive period of self-isolation

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Hájek

Local authorities and community aid groups have come together to help the most vulnerable in society to survive the coronavirus epidemic. The government has emphatically urged people over 70 to remain in self-imposed isolation in their homes and town halls and volunteers are now scrambling to help meet their needs.

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Hájek
The pandemic which is spreading fear among millions around the world has also sparked a strong sense of solidarity with the most vulnerable in the society today – elderly people who are most at risk of succumbing to coronavirus infection. In towns and cities around the country volunteers are getting together on social networks and community aid groups are cooperating with the local authorities to deliver food, medicine but also good cheer to people who have no family or friends to help them.

In small towns and villages where people know each other well, this is fairly easy, but less so in the Czech capital with it’s over one million inhabitants. Prague City Hall has set up a call centre to which elderly people now in self-imposed isolation in their homes can turn for help. Czech Radio’s reporter Marie Veselá visited the improvised call centre to find out more.

"Elderly people are asking for help with the most common basic tasks. They are asking for someone to do their shopping, or pick up their medicine, they need help with gaining more information relating to the crisis and given the concern it is causing everyone, particularly the elderly, they often just need someone to talk to, to help relieve their stress, answer their questions and give them some comfort."

Hundreds of volunteers, many of them students, have offered their services and are on standby to help. People calling the operators at Prague City Hall explain their needs and their request is passed on to a volunteer, someone who will pick up their shopping, walk their dog, or simply come to visit them and chat for a while. The operators can help them order a hot meal delivered to their home or put a psychologist on the line to try to quell their fears. Marie Veselá says hundreds of people call in daily to ask for help and more volunteers are always welcome.

“There are currently close to 2,000 volunteers on the Prague City Hall’s list and they are coordinated by the Red Cross with the help of a special app. Anyone interested can either volunteer online or come to one of the red tents set up outside Prague City Hall.”

The city hall’s aid line for elderly people is 800 160 166. Prague City Hall has also asked the public to be more aware of people in need in their vicinity and more vigilant in identifying and reporting old people who live alone and may be in need of help.