Not seeing friends and family had the biggest impact on older people in Wales during the winter lockdown, new research shows.
The survey of more than 1,200 people by Age Cymru between March and April 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%).
Accessing GPs has been raised as another 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 said: “No understanding of the fact that many elderly people do not have access to or understand social media.”
As restrictions ease, 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.
However, some respondents told Age Cymru that 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,” one respondent said.
Age Cymru chief executive Victoria Lloyd commented: “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.”