14 Apr Sheltered housing residents in Essex get creative during coronavirus pandemic
Residents in housing association L&Q’s sheltered and supported living schemes across Essex and East London, many of whom have been isolating for almost a year, have been able to stay connected during the Coronavirus pandemic through online sessions created specifically to tackle loneliness and isolation.
These include art classes, dance sessions and even socially distanced live music performances.
Charlie Culshaw, Director of L&Q Living, said: “Our Inclusion Initiative is designed to build community connections by providing our vulnerable customers access to a range of opportunities to help with their health and wellbeing.”
“Due to the Coronavirus we initially had to cease some activities at our schemes to stay within social distancing regulations. However, with in-house talent and external partners we have established an online community for our residents, called LQL Connect. Over the past year we have been able to offer a range of activities on our LQL Connect Facebook page, including exercise sessions, art and cooking lessons, competitions, bingo and a film club.”
“Well I am a great follower of Eray’s art lessons on the Facebook site. When Covid broke and I was shielded Eray could no longer visit us at our residence. It was like being left to drift in the ocean without an oar… so I for one was delighted when his videos began on the LQL Facebook site. My fellow art class compatriots and I really look forward to new challenges each week. It brightens up our very solitary weekends” Stephanie, resident of sheltered living scheme in Leytonstone
Eray Ismailov has been L&Q Living’s artist in residence for three years, delivering classes across multiple sites. During the pandemic, Eray creates a weekly video focusing on a different artist and posts it on the Facebook page for the talented artists to produce their work. Another resident, Maureen, said:
“Apart from rudimentary painting in secondary school some 60 odd years ago, I had not painted at all! That is until I met Eray and he set me on my present course to a very happy and pleasurable hobby!!! Thank you, Eray! Long may you continue to inspire us to paint! From art class, I have progressed to greeting cards and hope to sell these cards in the future to supplement my pension!!”
“The online programme is a lifeline and the classes are a connection to the outside world. A lot of people say, ‘I’m not a dancer, it’s not for me,’ but then they see that dance does so much for your physical and mental health, and gives you an opportunity to connect with other people in a fun way.” Rosie Whitney-Fish, Chief Executive of DanceWest
With many resident unable to see friends and relatives, the dance classes have been a lifeline and chance to connect with others, as well as a way of keeping fit. They are run by Dance West, who have put together a cohesive programme of online classes, creative challenges and socially distanced programmes since the start of the pandemic.
The sessions are funded by Sport England, who have distributed National Lottery grants through their Tackling Inequalities Fund. This aims to improve activity levels in those who are most at risk of being negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic – lower socio-economic groups, BAME communities, disabled people and people with long term health conditions.
Attendees include Brian, 54, a resident of Tolpuddle House with down syndrome, who has been shielding during the pandemic. He has enjoyed keeping active through the dance sessions and now attends four classes a week.
Residents of a refuge for women with learning disabilities who are victims of abuse, have also been taking part in the regular dance classes since February 2021. One resident said: “This was the first time I’ve ever done dance classes, and it was easy to do it online over Zoom. It’s well run and they get our hearts beating! Which is good because it’s hard to do exercise during the Coronavirus. There are four classes a week: Monday is Latin, Tuesday is pop, Wednesday is jive, and Thursday is yoga.”