It is 6 weeks since I have been out of our house.

Dianne Jeffrey, Chair of the Malnutrition Task Force, tells us about how she's been spending her time during lockdown. 

It is 6 weeks since I have been out of our house – except in the garden.

What have I been doing all that time? Day after day is the same, so how do I pass the days?

I stare out of the window a lot. I pinch myself to see if this is really happening – has the world really stopped? The whole world? Nobody is travelling anywhere, no one is seeing their family or friends, no one is going to the cinema, the theatre, the pub, the footy match, and almost no one is going to work. Nothing in my 75 years has prepared me for this. I don’t know what to tell my children and grandchildren. How will any of us ever have the confidence to travel, meet, hug one another, of even go out again? It’s safe at home for me…

But then I am in touch with our local Age UK CEO about distributing magazines to our elderly mostly rural population. She tells me of a brilliant idea and asks whether I can recruit some volunteers to write letters, cards, postcards – anything in fact – and send them to a central Age UK hub where they will be delivered to lonely isolated older people locked down at home.

Letter writers don’t share any personal details, she tells me, or make any controversial or discriminatory remarks. They do, however, describe positive things like how they feel, what they are doing to keep occupied and cheerful, activities they enjoy at home, memories and reminiscences etc. They ask questions to stimulate the older person reading the letter to think about how they feel and what they look forward to. Most of all, they reassure the reader that they are not forgotten about, are still loved and cared for. Age UK Derby & Derbyshire are in contact with many older people who normally attend their services and centres for activities and social contact. They are currently working hard to ensure they get regular telephone contact from a familiar voice but a letter gives people a real boost too

It isn’t like a pen-friend, as there is no long-term commitment or risk at all.

Actually the coronavirus letter-writing scheme turns out to have therapeutic benefits for those well-wishers who write them, as well as for those who receive them.

It is a bit like having a conversation with a stranger on a train. Once you start scribbling these thoughts on a card to a lonely stranger, it becomes quite addictive. If you want to try it, sign with your first name only, and send your letters to:

Age UK Derby and Derbyshire

29A Market Place,



DE75 7EG

Scrolling idly through the internet I suddenly come across this quick and easy chocolate cake – no eggs or butter – from Jenny Can Cook. Yes! I am off to bake it. No one to eat it here for sure, but at least the kitchen will smell divine today, and I can give it to our village volunteers tomorrow.

Dianne M Jeffrey