Eighty-three-year-old Gloria Rae has fared well during this lockdown, but there are some things she needed help with.
“Each time there’s a lockdown, I’ve joined the Age Concern. I rang them this time, and one of the ladies was nice enough to pick up my groceries and leave them outside my house,” she said. “I thought that was bloomin’ marvellous.”
During lockdown, Age Concern Auckland chief executive officer Kevin Lamb said they received a lot of calls from older people who just needed practical help like picking up their groceries or prescriptions.
“We sometimes forget that simple practical things [are] difficult and challenging for an older person who can’t have help coming into their home,” he said. “Imagine if your lightbulb goes in your bedroom. You can’t change it because you don’t have the ability to go on a chair. You can end up being in the dark every evening because you simply can’t do that.”
Mr Lamb said Age Concern Auckland has a group of staff and volunteers to call older people to make sure they are OK and offer what help they (staff and volunteers) can offer, whether it is picking up groceries or prescription medicine or coordinating transport to a vaccine centre.
Mr Lamb said that, for many of our elderlies, a day in lockdown is the same as any other day. He said 20 per cent of older people “live and cope with isolation and loneliness”.
“Absolutely, we need to focus on supporting older people during lockdown. We need to have that focus throughout the year,” he said.
More worrying, he said, is the increase in the number of people seeking mental health support. In New Zealand, he said, 10 per cent of people over the age of 65 are experiencing abuse and neglect. And, in most cases, the abuse is within families.
“For many of them as well, we do see the difficult divide appear. For a lot of the marginalised people, they don’t have access to online shopping or anything else online,” Mr Lamb said.
“When the advice is always to go online to try and find out where your nearest vaccine centre is, or do your shopping click and collect or whatever it may be, if you don’t have access, you’re just marginalised.”
TOA Pacific Inc. chief executive office Malia Hamani said that, for older Pacific people, living with their families is a saving grace that goes both ways. TOA Pacific advocates for “treasured older people”.
Both Age Concern and TOA are supported by the Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn’s Catholic Caring Foundation.
Ms Hamani said older people with superannuation are able to help their families financially. On the other hand, living with their families means they are not isolated.
She said TOA drops off food parcels and face masks. “We took it for granted that they have face masks until one Pakeha lady asked the staff for some,” she said.
Ms Hamani said one of their challenges is “ascertaining the support required with every request”.
“We are not a big organisation,” she said, adding that the Caring Foundation has been “most gracious to support us with our home visitations”.
She asked people to pray “for all of us who are doing our best that we may be guided by the Holy Spirit to do the right call at the right time”.
Mr Lamb also encouraged everyone to “just reach out and make a phone call” to older people whom they know. “Don’t worry if you can’t think of how to give them practical help. Just call us and we’ll take over.”