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Elderly ‘scared to come back out of cocooning’

EVEN as restrictions are lifted and something approaching a new normal starts to emerge, it is going to be difficult to get senior citizens to move away from the fears that have developed over the last few months.

That’s the view of Brigid Liddy, who was volunteering at the Day Centre in Carrigoran for over
seven years, up to the time that the pandemic emerged in the spring.

Throughout the months of cocooning, Brigid has remained in touch with many of the people who she assisted there and she is very concerned about their wellbeing now.

A resident of Ballycar in Newmarket herself, she feels that elements within the media have made elderly people very fearful. “They [the people she knows from the day centre] were dealing with it well at the start but they’re not dealing with it so well now.

“There is so much emphasis on the negative and scary aspects of it. I’ve stopped listening to Joe Duffy. Of course, he’s dealing with the facts but it’s depressing for the people who are listening and it’s scary.”

As serious as the pandemic has been, she says there are moments of levity but there is no interest in highlighting those. “When you are 70-something and you have someone else doing your shopping, it can be quite funny the things that people interpret that you want. But you’ll never hear anything funny on Joe Duffy.”

She feels there were a lot of phone calls to and among the elderly at the start, as quarantining was still quite novel, but with less stimulation now, there are fewer calls being made.

Elderly people tend to be at a greater risk of isolation than the general population anyway and this has been exacerbated by Covid-19. Brigid feels that even as some of the restrictions are finally being rolled back, it will be very hard for older people to go back to the activities they enjoyed so much just a few months ago.

“A lot of them are scared to come back out of their cocooning. These are people who were at the day centre every week. They dressed for it, got their hair done for it, they were excited about it. It gave them something to think about.

“A woman I spoke to yesterday said she had gone for a walk and she said the thought of being in her house alone for the whole day was frightening. People are isolated but also scared of reintegration; they’re really worried about reintegration.”

When people start to come to a place like the day centre, it takes them a while to find their feet, Brigid says, and she is concerned that there will be a widespread loss of self belief now. “I think there is a change in the attitude of the older people and I’m afraid that they will lose their confidence.

“The people that come to a daycare centre, when they come at the start they’re very quiet and timid and then after a few weeks, they find themselves and find their voice, which is very important. I’m worried now that they’re losing that.”

The impact that months of restrictions will have on older people is still being underestimated, she believes.

“I’m not sure if the day centre was to open in the morning, how many people would turn up. We’re hearing talk at the moment about the schools opening and creches opening and people being afraid to send their children. I think we’ll have the same thing with the older generation,” Brigid concludes.

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.