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May 26, 2020

Street Bingo – people can’t come to us, so we’ll go to them

The current situation with Covid-19 obviously means people can’t come to us as usual. So how do we get out into the community to host something that will safely bring people outdoors, just onto their street? We’re in contact with every member of Richmond Hill Elderly Action (RHEA), but how do we physically get out to see people who we might have only spoken to on the phone recently?

Simple…Street Bingo!

The challenge is managing the responsibility of inviting older people, some with very limiting capability who have been shielding for nearly three months, out of their homes to take part in a group event.

Initially we chose two housing complexes where we thought Street Bingo would work, because of their layout, and got the permissions needed. An invitation letter was hand delivered to every door of the first housing complex, including bingo tickets and safety instructions. Excitement struck before we’d even got to the last door! People were really receptive to the idea and were already looking forward to it.

With the weather on our side on the day, we arrived to find people already sat out. As music played through our loudspeaker more people joined us. We had brought our own chairs that we could wipe down easily and placed them strategically. Some played from a window, some from their front door and some on the grass. The team divided up around the complex to cheer people on (and to check distancing),so eyes down, ready to play.

The bingo itself seemed to fly by but we got the result that we’d hoped for: a mass feeling of enjoyment and involvement. It seemed that Street Bingo, done safely, was the perfect excuse people needed to get together for an hour and a half of normality and company. Even those who don’t like bingo sat out with us and “just enjoyed seeing everyone out and chatting again”.

We found out that it was also someone’s birthday that day and although he wanted to stay in, playing bingo from his window, everyone sang happy birthday to him which seemed to make his day. A nurse who was visiting someone else made a referral for support to us and now knows what Neighbourhood Networks are, and another lady’s visitors who were leaving, stayed to see what we were doing and said “thank you for doing this, people have really enjoyed it”. We put music back on through the speaker and people stayed to chat and enjoy the sunshine, escaping from the current crisis for a few hours.

Everyone’s spirits were well and truly lifted that day, including ours!

RHEA has since hosted Street Bingo at another location which was just as well received. It won’t work at every location, purely because of layout and maintaining safety. So for those people, we’re working on another group social event called Lazy Lunches. It looks like we’ll be rotating Bingo and Lunches around the whole ward of Richmond Hill as word is certainly getting around!

Darrell Xavier
Project Manager, Richmond Hill Elderly Action