Retirees sidelined during Coronavirus

It’s no secret that the lockdown and other curtailing of social movement as a result of  COVID 19 has changed the way retired people are able to stay part of our society.

Retirement is the end of a career, not the end of involvement in society. But because of coronavirus, social involvement has changed dramatically. For retired people its loss may resonate with messages that cause us to feel as if we are being sidelined. Because of the cruel nature of this virus and how it attacks the elderly particularly; those of us of retired age are feeling that the most useful thing we can do is stay home, even if we don’t have a Government Health directive to do so.

For some of us, particularly if we are partnered, staying at home is not as onerous or isolating as for those who are single. One of our friends spoke of how time dragged during lockdown. Her normal pursuits of volunteering and playing bridge, shopping and meeting with friends was severely curtailed. No amount of online games and books could make up for that slow time.

There is a concern among psychologists that the social ills of loneliness and frustration may counteract attempts to protect those who are most vulnerable. Perhaps we need to have a more targeted approach to health for older people. The sadness of the situation in Australia of those who are “locked away” in nursing homes being amongst the largest numbers contracting the virus should be seen as perhaps an example of reviewing how best to ensure health for those in open community.

How can those of us who are healthy older people still contribute to society via the paid and unpaid economy? Rather than lumping all over 60s in with the vulnerable elderly, ways of determining health should be more individualised. Retirees today have many more years of life ahead of us. Treating us all as old and frail is not only bad for our mental health but also for society at large which benefits from our wisdom and participation. Younger health policy makers should not be taking the easy option. Inclusive ways of ensuring our involvement need to be thought through, including use of virtual technology. We are still wanting to contribute and not be sidelined.

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