Relieving the situation for over 70s and shielded

While accepting the necessary prioritisation of the economy as this benefits all of us, I would nonetheless like to comment on the situation of the over 70’s and shielded groups, often, confusingly, put together - although there is rightly now recognition of the so called ‘healthy over 70s’. I am, perhaps inevitably, basing my comments on my own personal experience but attempting, as a (retired) Professor of Social Science to wider groups.

Much discussion implies an ideal typical setting of couples, with families nearby and often close neighbourly ties. Yet many many older people live on their own, many of these do not have family nearby or indeed any family at all. Not all have friendly and close neighbours. Thus while we see pictures of visiting family and neighbours talking up paths or through windows - many do not have even this limited social contact. This is exacerbated for those who are not fortunate enough to have gardens. Many such groups have had virtually no face to face contact for many weeks, with possibly severe effects on their mental health, for some exacerbating existing conditions. It could be argued therefore that far from excluding such groups from discussions of the lockdown easing, they should be prioritised. Current discussions of bubbles for example would appear to exclude the shielded and talk of special considerations for over 70s - let alone other more extreme suggestions for segregating all over 70’s.

An immediate and easy relief might be afforded by a simple relaxation of the advice not to meet even one friend outside one’s household in the privacy of one’s own garden or back court - safer than meeting in a park. Indeed this is widely flouted and seems little different from gatherings of neighbours or families in front of houses. In this surely older people who agree to accept the minimal extra risk can be trusted not to abuse such a relaxation?

The concept of ‘bubbles’ may be attractive but these should not be overly prescriptive - no ‘one size fits all’ approach will be workable. A more nuanced approach should be considered which is sufficiently flexible to take account of many different individual circumstances. One typical scenario might be for example an elderly person living alone with family and friends nearby. Can that person not choose both family and friends which might not be appropriate for one inclusive bubble? Will friends who may have no family thereby be excluded? Might it not be possible for example, to extend or vary the notion to explore small networks or nodes, to allow for a number of small clusters? This would also be helped considerably by more widespread testing.

Another concern is families who live at some distance from each other. If the elderly are to be subject to social distancing for many months to come, surely some consideration must be given to phased and limited visits which involve travelling? Some over seventies face the prospect of not seeing their families for many many months - again endangering their mental health. Hopefully tests and a slight opening up of the economy could allow limited travel for albeit short visits with families?

It might readily be objected that all these aspects cannot be policed and that many would abuse any relaxations. Thus those who abide by the advice will be doubly deprived. While not wishing to join those who talk of social unrest among the over 70’s, failure to credibly provide some amelioration of the current lockdown will undoubtedly have adverse consequences if older groups feel relatively deprived ( a situation of feeling unjustly deprived compared with those with whom they would expect to be equal) - compared to younger groups, those who fail to follow advice, and those in other countries who are now enjoying more freedom. As most social scientists recognise, such deprivation is associated with a variety of social issues including unrest and law breaking. Moreover, considerable attention should also be paid to the more economically and socially deprived amongst the over 70’s - it is not a homogenous group - not all have gardens, open spaces, access to the internet, privacy or the cultural supports that others enjoy.

We are asked to engage in an adult conversation and it is to the First Minister’s credit that she treats us as adults. In this respect it must also be recognised that we should be trusted to behave responsibly and knowingly be able to engage in individual risk assessment. Academics concerned with regulation have long recognised the importance of trust and compliance as opposed to criminalisation and confrontation.

Why the contribution is important

Important to provide some relief for over 70s and shielded

by HCR on May 06, 2020 at 05:54PM

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  • Posted by Catsmother May 06, 2020 at 22:46

    Very important point to raise, thank you for articulating it so well. I am an only child with an elderly parent, 85 years old, living 150 miles away. He is relatively fit for his age, but so missing all his normal social life which revolves around his bowling club. Few other family anywhere close so, though independently minded, he is feeling very isolated. We face not seeing each other for many months to come. Please consider what more can be done for this group, meeting up with his friends is what has kept him well since the loss of my mum a couple of years ago.
  • Posted by WorkingGlasgowMum May 07, 2020 at 02:39

    The mental health of our over 70s is suffering.

    If their grandkids have been isolating / shielding as most parents are not taking them shopping etc then I don’t see why they can’t see them. Also outside visiting should be allowed. Over 70s need interaction with their families.
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