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Photograph by John Kelly.

“We didn’t do anything wrong”

GRIM news of more restrictions on people aged 70 and over drew the ire of Active Retirement Ireland President Kay Murphy.

Kay, who lives in Shannon, was very angry about limitations being introduced on older people once again. “We’re all disgusted really, particularly in Active Retirement. We’re in the froth again, where we’re supposed to cocoon now and isolate all over again for something we didn’t do. I would feel very strongly about it because I have great admiration for our members and all people over 70 who are vulnerable and did it for the 13 or 14 long weeks. To be told to go back and do it again, it’s shocking I think. We didn’t do anything wrong, I think it’s the people who broke the rules who should be penalised this time.”

But aren’t people in this age group more at risk than others? “We are at risk and we are more at risk than most. But people over 70 are sensible people, they do what they are told. I haven’t been in a major supermarket since last March, I shop online now and I go to places like my local greengrocer or newsagent, and at a time when it is very quiet. I wear my mask everywhere as indeed we all do. We obey the rules, we are sensible people and what I think a lot don’t realise is that we are going to have to learn to live with this. It’s not going away any time soon at all. It’s not going to be over and done and dusted, we’re going to have to learn to live with it.

“To tell you the truth, I think our people will find it very, very hard to cocoon again. It had an awful effect, there are still a lot of older people afraid to go out, because the fear of God was put into them into them initially when we heard about this virus.”

She said that initially people felt that if they even stood outside their homes there was a good chance of picking up the virus and dying from it.

Kay also feels that too often the restrictions have been aimed at people in the capital, rather than taking account of the living circumstances of those at risk of isolation. “We have 25,000 members throughout the country, any older person alone, isolated, living in the middle of a field, it is shocking that no one can come and visit. An awful lot of our older people aren’t up to date with IT, I only got Zoom on my computer a couple of weeks ago out of necessity, but a lot of older people don’t even have a computer. An awful lot don’t even have a mobile phone. To tell you the truth the statement made last night about older people had no clarity at all.”

Kay said it was very hard to go through the first period of cocooning, where elderly people were instructed to stay at home for months on end.

It meant missing things like St Patrick’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day, and she found it very hard at times. “I found the first lockdown a challenge, I had some very lonely days. I had one day where I didn’t lift my head, I didn’t get dressed, washed or I didn’t eat.”

She says she hasn’t hugged her grandchildren since March as a precaution, while she says some older people still aren’t confident enough to leave their homes.

Kay feels that communication from the State has left a bit to be desired in recent weeks, particularly since the departure of Tony Honohan, while she criticised the long holidays being taken by Ireland’s parlimentarians. “You don’t take six weeks off in the middle of a pandemic.”

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.

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