From a handful of enquiries a month to 80 calls in a week – John Lewis’ ‘Man on the Moon’ advert has had an out-of-this-world impact on a Sheffield charity.
The now annual tradition of the John Lewis Christmas advert had many viewers wiping away a tear after watching the story about a little girl sending a present into space to a lonely elderly ‘man on the moon.’
But its effects were longer lasting for other people in the city after it prompted them to get in touch with Age UK Sheffield to volunteer their help.
The charity’s chief executive Steve Chu said: “The response we’ve had has been incredible. On an average month we might get a handful of volunteers getting in touch. After the advert aired we had 80 calls in a single week.”
The response has seen the charity produce a ‘12 Days of Christmas’ leaflet as a guide for those who want to help Age UK Sheffield to inform them about the different ways they can make a difference.
Steve said: “Our 12 Days of Christmas leaflet lists ways people who want to help can make a difference such as calling in on a neighbour, inviting them round for a mince pie or offering to pick some shopping up for them.
“The advert has done so much for Age UK both nationally and locally in terms of highlighting the issues affecting people in later life, especially those facing loneliness at Christmas.
“Age UK Sheffield is an independent, local organisation dedicated to supporting older people in our city, particularly those who are vulnerable or isolated, so the support we have had from John Lewis right here in Sheffield to raise the profile of our services designed to help people regain and maintain their independence has been fantastic.”
John Lewis is supporting Age UK charities locally with its green coin scheme, where customers can use their in-store tokens to vote for community schemes. The store is also subsidising Age UK Sheffield festive parties including purchasing cakes and buns plus craft supplies for the Wellbeing Centre’s social activities, such as Christmas card making.
But in the city this week the well-known store – known as Cole Brothers to many locals – is throwing open its doors to Age UK Sheffield staff and volunteers with a three-day series of events.
From today until Sunday, customers can jump on a static exercise bike to pedal a mile or two and try and ‘bring the Man on the Moon back home’ in time for Christmas, with his progress back to Earth monitored on-screen.
“Obviously we’re not expecting people to cycle the equivalent distance to the moon in just a few days!” said Steve.
“But every little stint on the bike helps and it is a nice way of helping people feel they are getting involved in the advert and playing a real part in the campaign.”
Age UK Sheffield staff will be on hand on the shop floor for anyone wishing to volunteer for the Christmas period or into 2016 to sign up.
Steve said: “It’s great that the John Lewis advert has raised the profile of issues in later life to such a wide audience – but we must ensure that momentum continues after Christmas and into the New Year.
“We have launched a ‘Do Something Awesome for Age UK Sheffield’ campaign for 2016 to encourage individuals and businesses to join our ‘Age UK Sheffield army’ and get involved in helping us deliver our work and support.
“It could be volunteering with us, organising a sponsored walk or run, or simply donating via our Virgin Money Giving Page.
“And we want people to share on social media what they’re up to with the #auksarmy hashtag so we can spread the word about what is happening to help the city’s older community right here in Sheffield.”
Isolated, cold and struggling with multiple life-limiting conditions, 96-year-old Estrena Soares, was referred to Age UK Sheffield by her GP.
Originally from Jamaica, she has lived in Sheffield for most of her life. She sometimes struggles to manage the impact of her health conditions including lupus, arthritis, kidney disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Estrena was referred when there was snow in Sheffield as her heating had broken and her flat was very cold. She also couldn’t afford to pay an unusually high utility bill.
Although not very steady, she was reluctant to wear her safety pendant alarm.
She also had a letter from her GP she was struggling to understand.
Estrena’s niece used to help with shopping, correspondence and medical appointments, but her ability to do this had declined along with her own health, meaning Estrena was hardly going out and rarely saw anyone else.
Following her referral, Age UK Sheffield’s Independent Living Coordinator, or ILC, listened carefully to Estrena and set about problem-solving with her.
The ILC gave Estrena a ‘winter pack’ including a blanket, hand warmer, hot water bottle, and thermal clothing to help keep her warm while she waited for the Housing Association to fix her heating.
Over the next few weeks, the ILC also helped Estrena to supply actual meter readings, which reduced her bill by £300, as well as compare fuel tariffs and switch supplier.
The ILC helped her to understand her GP’s Care Plan letter and also sourced a wristband alarm that was more comfortable to wear than the pendant.
Estrena has made a new friend who she now regularly meets for coffee and she now gets out and about by using community transport.
Meanwhile, her GP referred Estrena to the Falls Prevention Team, helping to increase her confidence.
- After the John Lewis Christmas advert aired, Age UK Sheffield received more than 80 calls in just one week from people wishing to volunteer.
- More than 12,000 people a year benefit from Age UK Sheffield’s services.
- The charity’s club – which helps people aged 50 or over to become more active, meet new people and enjoy excursions – has seen membership numbers increase tenfold to 1,500 after the scheme was redeveloped earlier this year.
- Age UK Sheffield’s Wellbeing Centre – a pioneering facility that helps older people with dementia – recently received a Carers’ Week Award from Lord Mayor Coun Talib Hussain.
- The charity has also gained Recognised Provider status – a resource tool set up, monitored and updated by Sheffield City Council which allows adults looking for packages of care and support to choose from a list of organisations who adhere to a clear quality framework.