For the mass majority of the population, the easing of the lockdown restrictions has provided an opportunity to begin to return to some state of normality. The art of social distancing has been well practiced as has the regime involved in supermarket shopping. Sanitisers, gloves and masks have become the “must have items” We have become a accustomed to the New Norm “
For those in the elderly population who have been living in isolation for most of the spring, a return to some normality can bring considerable issues. In some case these are the people who did not receive “the letter “re shielding but were told to stay, at home. They have perhaps, had a near neighbour or relation complete some shopping for them, the milkman has delivered additional essential items and the postman the occasional bill .No access to the internet. Television and radio is their only source of news. Taking their rubbish to the bin is their source of daily exercise as venturing further runs the risk of a trip or fall and an unwanted trip to hospital.
However, the easing of restrictions brings a much appreciated opportunity to visit a relation, and have a socially distanced, afternoon tea, sitting in their garden. Transport is arranged but to “prevent infection please can you bring your own plate and cutlery “A strange reunion this is, but, “staying alert, saves lives “
Although elated about “getting out “this visit presents some emotional and physical challenges. For weeks slippers have been the footwear of the day, and carpets have been the surface underfoot. Now heavier shoes have to be worn for this walk to freedom and company. Make up applied to a pale face, hair styled the best way possible, and best clothes worn!
A knock at the door, brings smiles and cheery greetings but, no hugs, no kisses not even an outstretched hand in a glove to aid stability.
Walking distances have until now, been confined to five rooms in their home. Steps, curbs, and footpaths are but a distant memory but now have to be confronted as potential trip hazards for feet and legs which have had very little practice at walking Muscle tone and strength have been lost. . A walk down a pathway to a waiting car seems to take an age and of course, a helping arm from others cannot be accepted.
Observing the high street from the back seat of the car is a strange experience. Roads are quieter, shops are boarded up and those that are open have queues outside. What are they like inside? Colourful masks, hide, what were familiar, happy faces and now gulfs of space prevent any form of conversation between shoppers.
Worrying thoughts start to flood the brain, rather than indulge in conversation.
So how long now will it take “to do a bit of shopping?” “Will I have the energy to stand for that amount of time, in the cold or the rain?” “ Does my bank card swipe “; “Have I the energy to walk to the bus stop to catch the bus to the shops and then come home?”
This is not the world that they remember where a trip to the shops was a form of retail therapy, time for a chat, a laugh, a place to linger and enjoy the company of friends. Those moments are but memories; this new world is daunting and hazardous.
Arriving at the venue brings some relief from those worrying thoughts. Any idea of a comforting hug and consoling chat do not appear. A familiar plate, with sandwich and cake is placed on a “table for one “ some distance from the hosts who, because they are family all sit close together.
Talking to people is difficult when you are two metres apart and coping with the noise from a neighbour who is mowing the grass and a dog that is barking. How strange that being in company can intensify isolation and unease. Having been indoors for a long period of time, the light outside is very bright, sounds seem louder and smells more intense.
To be welcomed to a little party but given a table on your own is a strange feeling. Raising your voice to talk to someone when you haven’t had a conversation for weeks strains the voice box and makes the mouth dry. The body becomes tired and chilled.
The need to return home, to safety, familiarity and quietness becomes paramount as the afternoon progresses.
The journey home is swift and without incident, no trips or unsteadiness of feet on steps. Closing the door, shuts out the realities that have to be faced in this “new normal”
There are some members of the community who are in need of support . Those that have no access to a computer, those that do regular trips of small shopping expeditions and use cash, will find the world a very daunting place. A little consideration for the elderly in our community is needed as they come to terms with the new norm.