Blog: Covid-smart camaraderie for older veterans
Published on 14 January 2022 02:00 PM
Loneliness and social isolation have long been issues for the older ex-service community in Scotland. Charities in Unforgotten Forces, the partnership boosting wellbeing for older ex-service men and women, have worked hard to address the problem but Covid, of course, was a setback. So, they adapted, and innovated.
Debs Dickson manages the Erskine Reid Macewen Activity Centre (ERMAC) near Bishopton. “We’ve installed a thermal imaging camera that alerts us if someone arrives with a higher-than-normal temperature,” says Debs. “Members sit in protective Perspex 'pods' while doing activities. Our staff are Covid tested twice weekly, and we have disinfectant fogging equipment ready to reduce the spread of viral infections if there’s a contamination concern.”
“Initially we had to be strict about rules,” says Debs. “But following the vaccine and booster roll-out we have been able to relax a little, in keeping with government guidelines. ERMAC has her mojo again, and we’re welcoming new members.”
Jenny Liddell heads Community Support at Sight Scotland Veterans. “Our activity hubs in West Lothian and Renfrewshire have partially reopened and home visits are recommencing, with safety still top priority” says Jenny. “Veterans going back to the hubs get a mobility assessment, with training and support to rebuild fitness and skills after lockdown for those who want it. Across Scotland our outreach workers are again bringing veterans together socially, for now in small groups, with Covid-19 safety protocols. We’re saying to our veterans ‘go slow, take it easy, and ease back into the community at a pace that you are comfortable with.”
Legion Scotland’s has been stalwart in maintaining friendship lifelines for older veterans through the pandemic. In September a relaxation of Covid rules allowed them to resume their annual comradeship pilgrimage. Service Manager Tommy Douglas said: “One 84-year-old gentleman had been very isolated for 14 years, but really came out of his shell and made friends that I’m sure he will enjoy for years to come.”
Read the full story in the new issue of Unforgotten Forces magazine.