Older people 'afraid to go out' despite lifting of restrictions

A national telephone service says older people are still too afraid to go out even though the Covid-19 restrictions have changed.
Older people 'afraid to go out' despite lifting of restrictions
File photo.
File photo.

A national telephone service says older people are still too afraid to go out even though the Covid-19 restrictions have changed.

SeniorLine says new ways will have to be found to encourage over-70s to leave home in safety.

Getting the over-70s to stay at home has been remarkably successful but tempting them out again may be a more difficult task.

Despite the change in public health advice, a significant minority of older are too afraid to go out.

SeniorLine has experienced a 200% increase in calls to its helpline and is hearing daily from older people who are fearful of acting on the new advice.

“For over nine weeks, older people have heard they are safe only at home, so leaving home can seem unsafe, even dangerous,” says Aine Brady, chief executive of Third Age, which runs the service.

Some callers are nervous about managing social distancing and other find shops a minefield. Most are fearful because the virus is still around and there is yet no vaccine.

A number of callers phoned to say they wanted to take advantage of walking in the public parks that have designated times for older people only to find them full of people of all ages.

One caller got as far as the gates of her local park but when she looked in and saw the crowds she knew social distancing was impossible and headed home.

Ms Brady says Third Age is all too aware of the negative effects on mental and emotional health if people are isolated at home, particularly if they are fearful of going out.

“We understand and support the reasons for segregating over-70s at the start of this epidemic was for their own protection. But now we need a different conversation,” she says.

“This isolation has had a negative effect on the mental health and resilience of some, and added to depression.”

"People need to be reassured that they can go out safely; they need to be reminded of the value of having a fuller life, and they need to be given clear guidelines that they can follow.

“Our SeniorLine volunteers are providing these to our callers, but a more public message needs to go out as well.”

Meanwhile, a survey has found that almost two-thirds of people are relieving their anxiety by going for a walk.

The iReach Insights survery also found that more than one in four (27%) are enjoying video calls with friends and one-in-five are having video calls with their family.

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