5 minutes with Daniel Wren

Over the past few months, National Seniors’ youngest team member Daniel has become the voice of the Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line, providing older Australians facing pandemic challenges with an understanding ear and informed advice. Here, Talia Paz chats with Dan about the Support Line and how he’s adjusting to the ‘new normal’.

  • Spring 2020
  • 5 minutes with

How has your job on the Support Line changed?

“When this phone service began, the focus was on checking in on all our members and making sure they’re safe and adjusting to the new normal. Now, we’re also giving older people advice and someone to talk to. Most people who call have read the government advice, but they just want another human being to assure them of what is OK.”

What kind of questions do you get?

“The questions are things like—can I babysit my grandchild? Can I have my daughter come over and visit me? A lot of the time they’re just confirming what they’ve been told as well, or what they’ve read. I have had people that say things like, ‘I have a new grandchild who is just about to turn one and I still haven’t met them—can I go to their birthday?’ And it’s a matter of saying ‘of course you can, but I would encourage you to stay away from everyone when you’re there. If you’re going to be in group photos or anything stand off to the end. I know it’s going to be hard and disappointing to do, of course, but if you want to be a part of that day then that’s how you have to do it.'”

What’s an average day for you?

“It involves a lot of problem solving. For example, I recently helped someone who had no fuel in his car and no groceries. He’s on the pension, and he spent the last of his money on feeding his dog. So, we arranged for a parcel of food from Salvation Army to be delivered to him. I also help by printing off applications for  things like the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and posting it to people. “Other people say things like ‘I’ve had a branch fall down and it’s too heavy for me to pick up and I can’t move it from my backyard’, so I refer them to someone who may know a registered volunteer in the area who can go around and do that for them. You really have to be on your toes to help out so many people with different needs.”

Are there any stories that stand out to you at all?

“The story that stands out the most was when I helped an elderly lady whose friend wanted to visit the farm she had grown up on in North Queensland. This was when people in Queensland were only allowed to travel 150km maximum, and this was a going to be a 400km trip. “I applied for an exemption on her behalf. I got an email back two days later from the Department of Health saying, ‘good news, restrictions have been lifted early, you no longer have to have an exemption to make this trip’. I got in touch with her and said, 'Look, you don’t actually need an exemption anymore’ and she was over the moon. She said, 'My friend will be so happy to hear that because it was her birthday and wished to see the farm she grew up on, and she was getting to an age where by her next birthday she might not be able to do that.'”

Is this a stressful time for you? How are you dealing with it all?

“It can be stressful at times. But people who just want to have a chat—that’s not stressful for me, because it’s easy for me to chat to people, whether it’s about New Zealand (where Dan is from), or where they’ve travelled overseas or through Australia. It doesn’t matter what you actually talk about,as long as you’re able to brighten someone’s day through a 10-15 minute chat. I really enjoy those conversations. “I had one guy call me whose parents lived in South Africa and he was in Victoria, and his father had tested positive for COVID-19. I had a chat with him to calm him down, and I sent him some information about protective equipment and stuff like that to send to his parents. He was very appreciative and told me that he felt much better. That’s why I’m happy doing this [taking phone calls].”

What can you tell people who are reading about this service for the first time?

“If they have questions, queries, or don’t have access to information they think they may need, I’d love to hear from them. Whether it’s to answer those questions or have a conversation. Anyone can call me. I’ve even spoken to 17-year-olds about their grandparents!”

What is the support line?

Are you feeling lonely or distressed? Are you caring for a someone or just need a listening ear? National Seniors Australia, in conjunction with Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Dementia Australia have banded together to offer social support to older people. National Seniors is well regarded, passionate, and very experienced in supporting older Australians.

Call 1800 171 866 and speak to us.

Yesterday I had a phone call from National Seniors checking up on my welfare in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am 87 and living on my own, so it was a lovely surprise to receive a phone call from someone who was willing to chat to me. I am managing on my own with some help cleaning my house, and I use the computer for shopping etc., where I can, but this was lovely to have someone who had time to stop and listen and talk.
– Janet

Thanks for your help, Dan!

National Seniors Melbourne care pack campaign update

A big thank you to everyone who has donated care packages to our fellow older Australians in Melbourne. In addition to the 200 packs that National Seniors Australia has provided, with your kind generosity we’ve raised $13,300 as of September 7, 2020! This equals 665 packages that have been distributed to those in need in Melbourne.

Did you know?

Each pack contains disposable face masks, hand sanitisers, alcohol wipes packs and an Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line guide. You can donate a pack to those in need in Melbourne by visiting pandemicprotect.com.au