Easing loneliness in isolation, through managed social contact at home

Many schemes for delivering food or medicines to vulnerable people have been quickly set up. To protect the recipients, such supplies must be left at their door – as if to a prisoner in solitary confinement.

Whilst a necessary first step, we now know that the vulnerable or over 70s may be required to stay in their homes for many months. To start to open up human contact for this group, these delivery schemes could convert to having fully protected (bio-secure) supply chains.

This will require a two-stage delivery process. Food or other goods are delivered (or bought by one group of volunteers) to an intermediate location where they are stored for enough time (about 3 days) for any potentially infected surfaces on packaging or goods to become inactive. As many deliveries may include chilled goods, suitable locations for this delay period might be pubs, restaurants, or school kitchens that are closed because of Covid-19, as they will have large fridges.

The second stage of the delivery process is then made by a cohort of volunteers who are willing to self-isolate for a sufficient period (14 days?) to allow them to make a round of home visits. They would enter vulnerable people's homes with the deliveries, then stay for a blether, and perhaps help put food away, etc.

There are many possible extensions of this approach, for example, chaperoning vulnerable people on walks or to essential medical visits, or for volunteers to be trained in home testing. The range of goods and supplied delivered to these intermediate locations could be expanded: mail, online deliveries, etc.

Our SME's work is not feasible to use in the current Covid-19 situation. So we have created a dedicated version of our IT platform (simply-connect.com) to support local groups with the service described here, which is being made available without charge.

Why the contribution is important

The impacts of loneliness are severe: direct human contact is essential if older or isolated people are not to just give up on living, or make ill-advised trips out. Rather than what would be seen as an outright ban on having human contact when deliveries are made, it is better to allow some non-physical human contact to take place, but under carefully managed conditions.

The 2-stage delivery system also allows for the (already low) risk of infection on packaging and delivered goods to dissipate.

by amirante on May 08, 2020 at 09:39PM

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