Warning: this story is about self-harm.
Another prolonged lockdown in Auckland is making it harder for older people to avoid loneliness.
Social isolation was already a major problem before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Surveys of 40,000 New Zealand retirees living at home between 2017 and 2019 showed that one in five felt lonely.
Auckland Age Concern social workers have been talking to older people on the phone every day to reduce feelings of social isolation.
Wayne, a 75-year-old man living alone in Manukau, was one of those on the calling list.
In the second Covid-19 crash in Auckland last year, it “just sank into depression.”
“I was almost ready to make myself. I actually tried, but thank God it didn’t work.”
After a temporary stint in a nursing home to help lift his spirits, this year he went back to living alone in an apartment.
This confinement is doing more to take care of himself, talking more to his family on the phone and to Age Concern callers who “like to talk like crazy.”
“And I can beat them,” he told RNZ.
He has also walked more, sometimes up to seven kilometers a day.
“When people see an old man like me walking around with a walker, most of them greet me or want to chat and all that. So all of that sustains me.”
Wayne was proud of how far he had come.
But Age Concern Auckland CEO Kevin Lamb told RNZ that with each day of lockdown, loneliness was becoming a bigger challenge for older people in general.
This same week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged the city’s 23,000 unvaccinated elderly to stay home due to the increased risk of contracting Covid-19 at alert level 3.
Despite the vaccine, Lamb told RNZ that older people were expressing fatigue from the confinement and increased anxiety about how easily Delta spread.
“For older people who are alone and isolated, who live alone, it has been very difficult. But also for people who may be a couple sharing a home, especially if there is a burden of responsibility for one of the couple to take care of themselves. yourself and your partner. And they don’t get that normal outside help. That puts an extra burden on someone and that can also be very, very challenging. “
In addition to those suffering from loneliness, Age Concern estimated that approximately one in 10 seniors experienced neglect or abuse.
“Most of that abuse and neglect happens within families. So, during a period of lockdown, the true and horrendous reality is that we often see older people who experience abuse and neglect are now locked up with those people. “.
Lamb said Age Concern could help anyone suffering from these issues by getting in touch.
And with Auckland descending to alert level 3, there was light at the end of the Delta tunnel.
Wayne was eager to use his Super Gold card to take a bus trip.
“I have a daughter in Tauranga who has been very good to me and I thought well that the first thing I will do is go down to visit her.”
How other retirees coped
Members of the Whangārei Bridge Club told RNZ how they remained optimistic in the confinement, before reaping the rewards at alert level 2.
Henry Cramer was “playing bridge a bit online and having some Skype conversations.”
George McGirr, 78, said he and his wife were “basically watching a lot of television [and] sounding like our families. “
Raewyn, 88, lived alone.
But he had his cat for company and he went out as much as he could during the confinement.
“With my mask, I walked a lot, where I live there are walkways close at hand,” he said.
Jenny Trigg, 69, also lived alone and “didn’t care so much about the first confinement.”
“Actually, he knits 35 pairs of slippers for friends and family. But this confinement I found a bit difficult.”
Where to get help:
- I need to talk? Call toll-free or text 1737 anytime to speak with a trained counselor, for any reason.
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865/0508 TAUTOKO (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide or for those who are worried about family or friends.
- Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or text message 4202
- Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- Youthline: 0800376633 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or send a free text message to 234 (8 a.m. to 12 a.m.), or send an email to [email protected] .nz
- What’s Up: Online Chat (3 PM to 10 PM) OR 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428787 Helpline (12 PM to 10 PM Monday to Friday, 3 PM) At 11 p.m. on weekends)
- Kidsline (from 5 to 18 years old): 0800 543 754 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800787254
- Health line: 0800 611 116
- Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.