Older people in rural areas ‘fear that they will be put behind the door again’

Covid-19 has taken an exceptional toll on the country. While rural Ireland has been experiencing a decline in population and amenities before the pandemic hit, the virus has done nothing short of speeding up the process.

Closure of / limited access to amenities and social distancing have contributed to isolating some of the most vulnerable in society. Some of the impact of this can be seen through new figures provided by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

The Community Call Fora, an initiative between local authorities and the voluntary sector set up to provide services throughout the pandemic, said it has answered approximately 54,000 calls from people in relation to social isolation, the collection and delivery of essential items, meals and health services.

Since March, the charity ALONE which partnered with each Covid-19 Community Call Forum, has received over 29,000 calls and provided various supports. These have included 1,400 social isolation supports.

‘Fear They Will Be Put Behind The Door Again’

On Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 this week, Active Retirement Ireland raised concerns over rural isolation also.

CEO of Active Retirement Ireland Maureen Kavanagh said the new restrictions that have been announced are concerning for older people, particularly the recommendation given by the government for people to limit their use of public transport.

“Older people need the transport to get to the shops, the doctor and hospital appointments. [They] have to use public transport to do the essentials,” Kavanagh said.

For them to have to cut back on their social interactions, cut back on their networks and basically remove themselves from society again in a limited way brings on a fear; fear that they will be put behind the door again and that no lessons will be learned from the previous lockdown.

“They cocooned for nearly 15 weeks of the first lockdown and they did it willingly because that was the part they were going to play to protect their communities, to protect their families and protect society.

“We are fearful that older people will be put in lockdown again. We can’t even measure the impact that’s going to have.”