#COVID-19 ‘They were physically shaking with anxiety’

Members of 1428 Active Retirement Club in Mullingar feeling vulnerable in COVID-19 crisis, says manager Debbie Daly (pictured above)

Social isolation and anxiety caused by fears over the coronavirus is having an effect on the mental health of some local senior citizens, according to the manager of one of the biggest retirement groups in the county.

The 1428 Active Retirement Club has more than 200 members who regularly visit its base on Harbour Road to meet friends or attend one of the many activities that take place. The club also provides advocacy services for its members.

Manager Debbie Daly is better placed than most to gauge the mood of the senior population of Mullingar, who, according to medical experts, are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to the coronavirus.

She says that many of the people she deals with have one of the underlying health conditions that put people at risk of becoming critically ill if they contract the virus.

“They are terrified. They are self isolating because obviously they don’t want to get infected. They are very concerned and it’s leading to anxiety.

“A lot of these underlying conditions are age related, such as respiratory and heart issues. Their immune systems would also be a lot lower than the younger generation.”

Once the taoiseach announced last Thursday morning that a range of far reaching measures were being enacted to slow the spread of coronavirus, Club 1428 closed its office. However, Debbie says that the number of people attending has fallen significantly in recent weeks once it was confirmed that virus had reached Ireland.

She says that for many of the members their visits to the Club 1428 is one of their only social outlets.

“Lots of our members live alone, some do have family living locally, but some might not see another person one day to the next.

“What we will be doing over the next few days or weeks is keeping in contact with people by phone and making sure that everyone is okay and seeing if they need anything. Lots of them have personal alarms which are lifelines if they need assistance.”

While there has been regular updates from the authorities, Debbie says that for elderly people and other vulnerable groups there hasn’t been very much to reassure them.

“All we could tell them were the statistics that were being published. Some of them would have been born in the late 1920s or early 30s and would have experience of their siblings getting Spanish flu or TB.

“The only information they have been given is to wash their hands and to self isolate. The symptoms are very similar to colds and the flu that people normally get. In their mind it was all doom and gloom. There was no positive news being given.

“I saw a couple of members earlier this week and they were physically shaking with anxiety. If they are anxious about an issue it may bring on other underlying problems they might have.”

If people want to help their elderly neighbours or family members, Debbie says that the wisest course of action is to phone them.

“I would recommend getting in touch over the phone rather than calling face to face. We would ask people with elderly relatives or neighbours to get in touch with them. A phone call might be all the reassurance thy need. If they need bread or milk and are too afraid to go out, leave it at the door for them.”

The 1428 Active Retirement Club will remain closed until the authorities advise that it is safe to open again.

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