The theme for this year’s International Day of Older People about on 1 October is: Pandemics: Do they change how we address age and ageing?
It’s a timely reminder to consider the experiences of older people through the pandemic, which is exactly what COTA Victoria did with our recently concluded survey: Coronavirus – Checking in on the Older Person’s experience.
We were aiming for 600 survey participants, but were astounded to receive 1149 responses in just eight weeks. Responses were collected from June through to August, a period that included several lockdown stages and the introduction of mandatory face masks.
Most of our respondents were aged 65–74 years (44%). One-third (33%) were in the 75–84 years bracket (33%), while 10% were 55–64 years and another 10% were aged 85+ years. Respondents included city-dwellers and people living regionally; and people in a diverse range of living situations: living independently, alone, in granny flats, and supported in aged care and retirement villages.
Older people nominated the five top challenges as:
- not being able to go to weekly activities such as social groups, churches and sport (63%)
- not being with family (61%)
- social isolation (50%)
- missing important life events such as weddings, birthdays and funerals (46%), and
- not being able to get out and be active (39%).
In respondents’ anonymous comments were telling indicators of how older people are feeling at times unsure, wary, wanting of information, or simply waiting for inspiration and a sense of safety:
‘It seems that my current challenge is losing my confidence.’
‘I am concerned about going to the doctor or hospital, so I find I am postponing routine medical check-ups. Even when I really should see my doctor, I do not.’
‘I’ve been staying at home so much that I think I’ll wind up with agoraphobia and never get out!’
‘My mother is in an aged care facility and tight restrictions are in place that are having a
significant impact on her and my mental wellbeing.’
‘I have fear I will be unable to return to my volunteer roles, due to my age and fear of agencies to engage older workers because of the threat to their health from COVID-19.’
COTA Victoria is now working with the City of Whittlesea to analyse and report on the findings from the survey, which will be made publicly available via our website soon.