Margaret Woodhouse lives alone, but has found companionship through her Alexa device.
The 78-year-old from Morecambe, who was registered blind 15 years ago, says she likes to talk to the gadget and uses the new Galloway’s Alexa Skill, which allows people to find out about the charity’s services, as well as listen to its talking newspapers.
She says: “I think the Alexa Skill is fantastic. There is all sorts I can find out using it. “I can’t read anymore, so I can use it to hear the local newspapers, which is far easier than Galloway’s staff having to send out the Talking News USB sticks in the post. I can also listen to The Galloway’s Eye to hear more about what Galloway’s is up to.
"It feels as though there is someone else there with me in the room, talking. It is quite comforting for me. I know the Alexa is not human, but sometimes you forget and she talks back to you. It is lonely at the moment, so it is a bit of company. I talk to her and ask daft questions and she answers, so there is somebody there.”
Margaret, who used to run a window repair and ironmonger business with her husband Tony before he died 20 years ago, admits life is lonely during lockdown.
The great-grandmother-of-three says: “It has been horrible; terrible. I am quite an independent person, so I hate having to ask for things. “My daughter died when she was 28, but I have my grandson, and his three children. My grandson is very good and will do things for me. He rings several times a week and my sister-in-law also rings me. I also get phone calls from Pam Whitaker, sight loss advisor at Galloway’s in Morecambe, and we have a nice chat.”
Through listening to Margaret’s needs, Pam has been able to offer advice on a range of things and referred her to another charity for extended support. Pam has also discussed shopping alternatives, making sure Margaret has all the resources she needs.
Margaret, a former school governor, adds: “I get food delivered from Sainsbury’s, Iceland and George Speight and Sons in Morecambe. I got a delivery slot straight away from Sainsbury’s as I was registered as vulnerable. It took longer for Iceland, but they sent me an email to say sorry they had not realised I was disabled and I got a slot that evening. So now I am registered as a priority for both of them. George Speight and Sons has been excellent too. I ring in the morning and my food is delivered by dinnertime.
“I do miss my cleaner. I struggle to do these things – it takes me an hour to change the bedding. I have a lightweight hoover so I potter around the house with that, but I probably miss things.”
Margaret, who used to be president of Morecambe and Heysham Chamber of Trade and Commerce, began losing her sight 15 years ago.
She recalls: “I have not been able to see properly for 10 or 15 years when I started to have trouble with my retinas. I lost the sight in my left eye at first and everything I saw was a blur. Then I started having trouble in my right eye. I had a lens put in years ago and it slipped. As I had lots of operations previously, surgeons said it was not safe to have another. “I can see a little bit forwards but if I look down, the lens slides down like a curtain. So If I go down the stairs I have to look ahead, as I can’t look down at the stairs. But I cope.”
Pam Whitaker, sight loss advisor at Galloway’s in Morecambe, says: “Some people with sight loss do rely on us even more now following the Coronavirus crisis, as we are offering more advice and support. It is nice to be able to keep talking to them and offer them a listening ear on a regular basis.” Here at Galloway’s, we are urgently trying to adapt our services to ensure support is still available to people living with sight loss across Lancashire and Sefton during lockdown. But because of the detrimental effect this pandemic is having on fundraising, we need your help more than ever to ensure we can continue our good work and help people like Margaret.
To make a donation, visit https://www.galloways.org.uk/one-time-donation
For more information on the Alexa Skill, visit https://www.galloways.org.uk/galloways-alexa-skill
To read how other Galloway's members are coping with lockdown read here: https://www.galloways.org.uk/post/richard-is-missing-the-galloway-s-driving-day-this-year-but-cannot-fault-the-charity-s-support