Blog: Retired members are facing a raft of COVID problems

Rosie MacGregor, the chair of UNISON’s national retired members’ committee, highlights the particular challenges for older people due to the coronavirus pandemic

Tight cropped porter of Rosie MacGregor

Retired members have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have underlying health problems and we are in one of the most vulnerable groups, with high fatalities.

Those living in care homes have been particularly at risk. The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health staff and care workers, together with those in their care, has been massive and led to numerous unnecessary deaths.

Please spare a thought for all victims of this invisible enemy and pay tribute to essential workers who continue to risk their lives on our behalf. 

All fear the unknown – not knowing who will succumb or how long the pandemic will last. Will there be another surge in infections?

If anything good comes of this, we might find ourselves living in a more caring society. There has already been a tremendous resurgence of community spirit and good neighbourliness.

Life is particularly hard for those who live alone, have to remain indoors and have no family.

I’m lucky my 30-year-old son lives at home. He’s good company and has been brilliant running errands, as there’s not much chance of him finding a job in the current climate.   

One retired member told me that she is worried about the impact it will have on her granddaughter, saying her dreams for the future have died. This is so depressing for everyone.

I don’t know how people of working age, with their livelihoods taken away, will cope in the future.

Retired members tell me their greatest fears – apart from whether they catch the virus – are:

  • loneliness and isolation;
  • not being able to see their grandchildren;
  • money and pension worries, including a lack of savings and rising living costs;
  • health care and the supply of food and drugs.

There has been so much conflicting advice from government and too much misinformation.

 The free TV licence for those over 75 ends in August. That’s really not good enough, but I doubt the government realises how much older people – especially those who are housebound or live alone – rely on the TV and radio for information and to combat loneliness. 

Those who live alone often rely on the TV and radio in the background for company.

Loneliness and social exclusion is a massive problem, harmful to physical and mental health. This is especially so for older people. The ability to connect with others is particularly difficult for many pensioners without access to a computer or social media.

As if there isn’t enough to worry about, we have fresh fears and uncertainty about the impact of the epidemic on the economy. It isn’t just our health that is affected, our pensions are invested in the stock market, which has seen massive volatility and savings rates are falling.   

Retirement can be a time to try out new activities and in the lockdown my partner – never previously noted for his cooking – has started baking bread and making cakes!

Delicious – and a positive note to end on. 

Keep vigilant, stay at home if you can and stay safe.