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Lockdown survey provides an insight into what older people need to emerge from pandemic

Published on 07 July 2021 01:40 PM

Not seeing friends and families, impact on emotional health, loneliness, and worries over physical health were the main concerns of more than 1200 older people who responded to a national survey on their experiences of the winter lockdown.

The survey, which is available to download from below, undertaken by Age Cymru and a number of national older people’s organisations during March and April 2021, found that for 87% of the respondents, not seeing family and friends was their biggest challenge followed by the impact on emotional health (51%), loneliness (37%) and physical health (35%). One older female who was shielding and living alone said she was ‘fed up of being lonely but that going out was one of the things she was going to find most challenging.

Accessing GPs has been raised as cause for concern among older people and some respondents said the pandemic made things worse with many GP surgeries changing ways of working with limited booking times and an increase in the use of digital technologies. Reflecting the concerns of several respondents, one older person told us there is “No understanding of the fact that many elderly people do not have access to or understand social media.” (Self-isolating male, 80-84, Denbighshire.)

Looking ahead to the easing of lockdown restrictions

89% of respondents said they were looking forward to seeing family and friends, while 63% said they were looking forward to going out, particularly to the gym, swimming pool or church.

Sadly, there were others who said they weren’t looking forward to anything: “I live a housebound life anyway because of disability in my household and during lockdown we were eventually able to have regular food deliveries and prescription deliveries. I am concerned that when lockdown is over we will struggle as service providers return to neglecting the needs of those of us who have always lived in lockdown regardless of the pandemic. (Female carer, 55-59, Bridgend)

Deterioration of physical and mental health

Some respondents told us of how their physical and mental health has deteriorated during lockdown and they have concerns about whether they are now mobile enough to go out: “With the lack of real movement for one year, I find it very difficult to be out and about without feeling tired and discomfort. I feel my physical ability has gone down to a third and this is very worrying.” (Female, 70-74, Cardiff)

Concerns around a loss of physical fitness often went hand in hand with concerns about the lack of facilities in public places wondering whether they could access public toilets or places to rest: “When I am able to go out I will need toilets around and seats to be able to rest.” (Female, 85-89, Torfaen).

Age Cymru’s chief executive Victoria Lloyd says: “This survey has given us a window into some of the struggles older people have had to endure during the pandemic. It also helps us to map out some of the pathways that will be needed to help older people emerge successfully from the pandemic.

“Older people are keen to see the safe reopening of facilities such as lunch clubs, day centres and the community spaces that they may have used prior to the pandemic. Places where they can meet friends, undertake physical and social activities, and access important information. It is also important to make sure that those older people who do not use digital technology are not disadvantaged in any way when accessing services and this is particularly the case when accessing health care.

“We must ensure that our village, town and city centres are age friendly with accessible public toilets, suitable seating, and effective public transport to support older people in their communities. While many older people have told us how re-assuring it was to have neighbours and volunteers supporting them during the lockdown so it would be wonderful if this support continues as we fully emerge from Covid restrictions.”

Views of the second lockdown from 50+ Forums in Wales

“Living alone during the second lockdown, which was through the winter time, made many older people feel so lonely and isolated as no one could come in and visit. All contact was made from the doorstep and the cold, wet and miserable weather made things even worse. Very short days, dark at 3.30pm made evenings long and lonely. Many older people went to bed early just to get the day over with but then woke in the middle of the night and were unable to sleep as their pattern of sleep had changed. I even heard one or two who went to bed hoping that they didn't wake up in the morning. At least through the first lockdown people could go outside into the garden and get fresh air but through the winter time this was not possible.”

Lynda Wallis, Vale of Glamorgan 50+ Forum

"This is another excellent report that highlights the problems many older people had to deal with over the second phase of the pandemic. It is essential that as society recovers from Covid, that the views of older people are put front and centre and what they say is acted on. Reinstating services and support that older people rely on must be given a high priority, especially in the NHS and social care"
Steve Milsom, Caerphilly 50+ Forum

Age Cymru, together with colleagues in Active Wales, Cymru Older People’s Alliance, Pensioners Forum Wales, National Pensioners Convention Wales, Welsh Senate of Older People and Women Connect First undertook the survey in March 2021.

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