Thursday, 29 April 2021
Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements
Covid has affected many people, but the pandemic has affected many more. Mental health and stress affected people across all age groups. This morning, I want to speak about older people and their families who have raised concerns with me.
Social networks and human interaction was severely curtailed, be that meeting for coffee, dancing, bingo, mass, matches, marts and the pubs. The isolation and disconnection from family and friends hit people hard, particularly those who had maintained their independence only to find themselves cut off from family and friends and dependent on others. There is a saying, "mens sano in corpore sano". Being unable to get out and about, be that dancing, sports or exercise, and being housebound put pressure on people's minds. In addition, there was the constant negativity of the media.
While some people found online outlets, such as family Zoom or FaceTime meetings, that may also have drawn them into conspiracy theory rabbit holes and put more pressure on them. For many people who have had the vaccine, they still have very real worries and a reluctance, for example, to have friends over or go about their ordinary business. There is a comfort in being in one's own familiar space.
It is important to emphasise that it is okay to not feel okay. There was good support in the earliest stages of the pandemic, with efforts to get people online and sports clubs delivering people's shopping. There is a different need now. In the same way that the well-being of children was prioritised with the reopening of schools, there is a need now for a strong focus on the well-being of older people. Will the Minister of State indicate whether there are specific measures in place to promote their well-being?