Coronavirus isolation won’t faze Norfolk’s stoic over-70s - but many that age will need our help NOW
PUBLISHED: 20:01 15 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:12 16 March 2020
Potential isolation for the over-70s is going to hit hard. Time for us all to do our bit, says Nick Richards
Writing a column gives you a great chance to reach thousands of people with your views. Sometimes that can be a good thing.
A week ago I wrote about the issue of stock-piling and took a lighthearted approach to the items I'd gather en masse rather than toilet rolls.
But a week on, my tone has changed. Seven days ago we were concerned with panic buying and stocking up in case we had to self-isolate but, seven days on, it looks like we are about to get our first coronavirus-related victims in Norfolk.
Not so much victims of this illness, but victims of liberation.
Over the weekend it emerged that the over-70s are likely, in the next couple of weeks or so, to be told they must stay in their homes and isolate themselves from the outside world for a period of up to four months. This could mean until August.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday on The Andrew Marr Show that if this was going to happen it would be hard to enforce. I understand that the over-70s have been outlined as being most at risk, but robbing them of their liberty will, for many people in this age group, almost certainly feel like a fate worse than death.
I think of my own parents, my mum, 71 and my dad, 73. That's them in the picture mucking around like a couple of kids on Saturday in Norwich's Pilling Park when they were supposed to be playing with my children.
They live for being outdoors, for taking long country walks, for going to the coast all year round and for meeting friends of a similar age in the city.
Six hours before this picture was taken they both recorded personal best times at the 5k Sloughbottom parkrun.
They have holidays planned, they have a golden wedding anniversary to celebrate in May, they have gym memberships, my dad runs with friends, they are both planning to take part in the Run Norwich 10k in July. Stealing their liberation this summer will be incredibly hard on them. I'll still go and see them, even if I have to sit in their garden and talk to them over the phone the other side of their patio doors.
I won't forget them.
I can see that staying indoors may prevent them getting ill and reducing the need for over-70s to take up valuable hospital beds, but I don't see why a blanket ban on one age group, regardless of underlying health issues should be a firm government plan.
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What's to stop them driving to a deserted beach early one summer morning and swimming in the sea or going for a walk before returning home?
I'm sure they, along with other rebellious East Anglians of a certain age, will find a way to get around this loophole.
In a sense they are lucky. They want to get out. On the flip side are the over-70s who are already lonely and live in an isolated world where they may only see one family member a week, or maybe one carer a day, or maybe they don't see anybody. These are the people I really feel for.
My grandad, 94, who lost his wife of more than 70 years six weeks ago. He's already feeling lonely and isolated without being told he can't have any visitors. My parents effectively can't see him for four months. I can tell you now, that's just not going to happen.
We're not going to forget him.
And anyway, what happens if you're 69 now and will turn 70 in May. Do you suddenly have to go inside on your birthday? And what's going to happen to those over-70s who do leave home? Are they going to be arrested?
That's for the likes of Matt Hancock to iron out. What I do know for sure is that this widely sweeping generalised group of 'over-70s' is a diverse, intelligent, defiant, young-at-heart group who sure as hell don't like to be told what do do.
For the savvy over-70s who have the internet, friends, family, transport and who are socially active, this is a huge kick in the teeth, but one they will overcome in their own indomitable way.
But for those who aren't online, who maybe sit in front of the television for a large part of the day, who have health conditions which mean they can't get out and about and who have no friends or family close by, these are the people we all have to think about from now.
None of us really knows how serious coronavirus will become in the UK, but we are starting to see that in order to combat it, a large chunk of our population are potentially being asked to self isolate.
Anyone younger than 70 needs to look out for their friends, family and neighbours, especially those who live alone.
Before this potential ban comes into place, knock on their door, see if you can help and work out a plan, whether its dropping off shopping on their doorstep, walking their dog, emptying their rubbish, putting their bin out, now is the time to think about doing your bit.
I live in Norwich's Thorpe Hamlet. If anyone in that area over 70 needs help and they haven't got anyone else, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01603 772487. I won't forget you either.
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