Rowena Orejana reports.' />

He's a free handyman just for Manukau's elderly. Rowena Orejana reports.

A pipe from her hot water cylinder is leaking. The 80-year-old woman doesn't know what to do as her husband used to fix stuff around the house but, now, she is all alone.

A call-out to a tradesman would cost about $90, an amount she's not prepared to pay, especially if it's just a matter of tightening a bolt to fix the problem.

Being unable to do small odd jobs around the house is a continual frustration for isolated older people who do not have someone to help them.

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Organisations working with older people have identified this need and come up with the solution: Peter Freestone, handyman. No job is too small for him.

"The main thing is, I'm not here to replace the tradesman. I won't take jobs that would take more than an hour to do," he says.

Mr Freestone's handyman role is a pilot project of Age Concern Counties Manukau to help with small jobs that older people can no longer do for themselves.

"We don't want our older people engaging in risky behaviour," says Wendy Bremner, Age Concern executive director, with a smile.

"The idea is, it's a job that a child or a friend would normally do, one that you wouldn't normally contract a tradesman to do."

Changing lightbulbs or a washer from a leaking tap or even hanging a picture are the types of jobs Mr Freestone can do free of charge. Chopping down a 15m tree is not.

If a job is too big, Mr Freestone can take a look and advise the older person on what he or she could do. "What we can do is assess the problem, have a quick look at the quotations they've been given to make sure they get value for money," he says.

Apart from odd jobs, Mr Freestone will also ensure people know about the entitlements available to older people, such as disability allowances.

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Mrs Bremner says some people often don't seek help from Government agencies for fear of losing their independence. "A big part of the role is a referral to other services," she says. "A lot of people are fearful that if they ask for some help they are going to be sent away from their home. But that is the actual opposite of what the system wants to maintain."

Mrs Bremner says authorities prefer to help people to continue living independently. "There is a lot of help out there for older people. In our Facebook page, we have about 250 links to these organisations. But you don't know what you don't know," she says. "Peter will have a toolbox of tools and also a toolbox of information."

Help is at hand

The handyman services are free but materials, if required, are not. If you need Mr Freestone's services, call Age Concern Counties Manukau on 279 4331, ext 800.