Both SRV and COTA Victoria quickly recognised that social isolation and fear about the COVID-19 pandemic would be serious issues for older people. However, it was also acknowledged that more research would need to be done to understand the impact of COVID-19 on older people and elder abuse.
COTA Victoria also conducted an online and telephone survey of older people aged mostly between 65 and 84. The primary aim of the survey was to ensure the voices of older people were included in public discussions about how to plan, manage and recover from natural disasters and community emergencies.
COTA worked with the City of Whittlesea to analyse the results. The feedback from 1,149 participants has assisted the Victorian Government and local councils with recovery work and emergency planning.
Those surveyed said the top five pandemic challenges were:
- Not being able to go to weekly activities such as social groups, churches and sport (63%)
- Not being with family (61%)
- Social isolation (50%)
- Missing important life events such as weddings, birthdays and funerals (46%)
- Not being able to get out and be active (39%).
Respondents’ anonymous comments were telling indicators of how older people were feeling during this time. Many revealed they were unsure, wary, wanting of information, or simply waiting for inspiration and a sense of safety.
Participants also said they were concerned about missing family; their financial future; isolation and boredom; catching the virus; concern for others not following rules; health in general and staying safe.
As people considered the recovery phase of the pandemic, the overall responses were positive and demonstrated their resilience.
Many shared suggestions about managing life in a pandemic including the need to stay connected (41%); not panic (18%); be active and continue to exercise (14%) and continue regular medical checks (12%).
This survey demonstrated that even if an older person is experiencing many challenges, their attitude and advice is relevant to the experience and recovery of the broader community.