- Camille Meehan
No Human Contact For 8 Months: The Lonely Reality of Shielding from Covid-19
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic is rife. It is unfortunately reaching all corners of our society, and is particularly affecting the elderly and vulnerable people who are shielding. Can you imagine living alone with no human contact? This is what hundreds of thousands of elderly people experience every day in the UK, even before COVID-19 threatened us to stay at home. Now that Lockdown 2 has launched into full effect, many will experience these feelings of isolation resurfacing and intensifying.
Drawing of Mrs. B's cat, Katie, and her favourite books.
In a time when families and friends are separated once again by a national lockdown, the nation finds ways of coming together to support those in our communities who are seriously affected by the pandemic. Based in Peterborough, the charity Ness M Care Foundation provides care services and has adapted (like many of us) during the pandemic to offer help to isolated people. They have launched their Buddy-Up project, building clients’ social contact through activities such as going for a walk in the park. Ness M Care also offers Covid-19 Community Support, helping high-risk people in isolation who cannot do their own food shop. The charity relies on volunteers to support these projects.
I reached out to Mrs. B, an 83-year-old woman, who has been supported by Ness M Foundation’s Covid-19 Community Support for 8 months. She was kind enough to tell me about her life, how the pandemic has affected her, and how the foundation has improved her quality of life.
Mrs. B lives locally in Peterborough with her seven-year-old cat, Katie. I asked her to tell me a little about her health condition, if she was comfortable doing so. Throughout her life, she has struggled with a range of psychical health issues, having had multiple operations when she was younger, and she currently suffers from spinal issues causing extreme pain all over her body.
Despite everything she has been through, Mrs. B kept her spirits high on our phone call. Commenting on the lockdown’s impact on her life, she told me: “If I were young, I think I would feel it more. But I’m 83 and I’d be at home anyway! I can’t get around much anymore.”
What Mrs. B seemed most worried about, and understandably, was mixing with people in shops. Due to her health problems, she would be concerned if exposed to so many people at once. She cannot drive because she is partially sighted, which would make it even more difficult for her to avoid contact with people on the bus or walking in the street. Mrs. B accepts that she needs to isolate, and she knows it is necessary for the elderly to stay inside when their immune systems are impaired. She did, however, admit to me that at times it gets her down, and she does experience loneliness.
To Mrs. B, TV and radio are extremely valuable to her, and she would struggle greatly without them. Hearing human voices through the TV is a way for her to feel like she is experiencing human contact, and watching debates and documentaries keeps her mind occupied, providing her with new thoughts and perspectives to consider. She is extremely well-read and loves to read books to keep her busy. We spoke for ages about Dickens and the Bronte sisters, who are some of her favourite authors! In the near future, she is hoping to buy an iPhone so she can FaceTime her nieces.
“I don’t know what I’d do without my television, I don’t think I would cope. It’s the only human contact I have, I don’t hear any other voices.”
Ness M Foundation offers Mrs. B a Covid-19 shopper, who helps with her weekly food shop and drops it at her home. When I asked Mrs. B how she feels about this, she told me that it is more than just a shopping service for her, it provides her with a friend. It gives her something to look forward to every week, knowing they can have cheerful conversations.
“She’s more than a shopper, she’s a friend to me.”
Of course, her furry feline Katie does keep her company! Mrs. B adopted her cat, Katie, who needed rehoming. Katie was terrified of people and still to this day hides under the bed when people knock on the door. She expressed to me her worries about where Katie will end up in the future, and told me about The Cinnamon Trust in Cornwall: a charity that rehomes pets for the elderly and the terminally ill. She is hoping that her Covid-19 shopper will help Katie get accustomed to new people, so that if she ever needs a new home she will settle in comfortably.
I was only expecting to call Mrs. B for a quick interview, but we ended up on the phone for two hours talking about her life stories and our shared interests. When I asked her what advice she would give other people in her situation, she told me that having someone to talk to who ideally shares the same interests (like we did) is vital to her wellbeing. She has so much to talk about and so many stories to tell, but she feels that no one ever wants to listen to elderly people. Ness M Foundation provides people like Mrs. B with Wellbeing Volunteer Callers to tackle their loneliness.
“When you’re old who wants to know you anyway.”
Ness M Foundation helps people like Mrs. B every day to tackle issues caused by Covid-19 isolation and general loneliness, and they are always on the lookout for new volunteers. Whether you want to get involved in the Buddy-Up project, become a Covid-19 shopper, or simply conduct weekly wellbeing calls to a lonely person, you only need to spare a few hours a week to give back to your community. Please call Ness M Foundation on 01733570999 if you would like to get involved.